The Coastal Post - February, 1997

Gang Activity Hits Marin

BY JOAN REUTINGER

District Attorney Jerry Herman's office prosecuted 50 gang-related adult felonies and misdemeanors, and 24 juvenile gang-related crimes in 1996 in Marin. The 1996 Grand Jury reported that gang crime and drug sales are increasing.

Juvenile crime prevention is fostered at the County Community School (CCS) at Sobriety High School, the Oracle Program and Juvenile Hall. The County spends a lot of money on these programs, but they are relatively unknown to the general public, and they could do with support from both merchants and the public. They serve a total of 400 to 500 students of high school age.

The CCS is a small school for students in grades seven to 12. There are three classrooms; students in grade seven to nine are in one, students in grades 10 to 12 in another, and the third has a small group of Special Education students.

The students are placed there because they don't fit into the social setting of the regular classroom, because they present "chronic insubordination" problems, skip school or are often late, and have failed in scholastic achievement.

Sobriety High is just what the name suggests; it is for high school students who have serious drinking or drug-related problems. Again, the classes are small. Sobriety High and CCS share the same campus, but every effort is made to not mix the two student bodies. They are given different lunch hours and breaks. Sobriety High in Marin's first charter school, and nearly 80 percent of the students remain substance free and have enrolled in an AA program.

The Oracle program is for teenagers who live in group homes; pregnant girls of high school age and those who already have children; those who are dismissed from county schools; and boys and girls who have to work.

The students meet once a week with a teacher and are given school work equal to 25 hours of classroom instruction. The Grand Jury report says, "Unfortunately, a fully-equipped computer room is unusual much of the time, due to lack of funding for a computer lab technician." This program is seriously underfunded, especially as the need keeps growing.

Juvenile Hall is for adolescents who go through the juvenile justice system. Age varies between as young as 10 years to as old as 19. The average stay is 11 days. The report says Juvenile Hall "is badly in need of a computerized diagnostic program for scholastic assessment."

Law enforcement officers and the schools work together to control gang activities, and "all involved are aware that this effort is very sensitive and that students' rights must be carefully protected."

Regarding adult gang activity the report says, "There is a real and serious threat to citizens of Marin from criminal gang activity, and the law enforcement agencies in the county are aggressively and effectively facing the problem. Arrest and prosecution of gang-related crimes have high priority."