In Brief

Quarter-cent of safety

A sizeable jump in the number of violent crimes and calls for overall service in Ventura has the city’s police department lobbying for a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would make way for more fire and police jobs.

A ballot measure could appear on the November ballot that, if passed, would fund the positions for roughly 15 new police officers and 10 new firefighters, said Ventura Police Chief Pat Miller. “In a nutshell, we have the same number of police and firefighters as we did 15 years ago and the City Council wants to increase fire and police staffing.” Despite a 40 percent increase in calls for service since 1990, the same number personnel is carrying the workload, Miller added.

In 2005, the department handled 87,223 calls, which is an average of about 239 calls per day.

Miller, who said that the number of Ventura’s public safety positions is below the national average for cities of the same size, believes the numbers will do the talking — and make all the difference in convincing the public that the measure, which would raise over $4 million a year for public safety services, is a true necessity. The measure would have to garner 67 percent of votes to pass.

According to information released by Miller, Ventura has 1.2 officers per one thousand residents, as compared to the national average of 1.5 for cities of the same size. This equates to a difference of about 25 police officers.

With almost 300 violent crimes reported in 2005, Ventura’s police department dealt with a nearly 15 percent increase in such crimes as compared to 2004. Additionally, the number of violent and property crimes combined increased from 4,194 in 2004 to 4,226 in 2005, which adds up to a .78 percent increase — and the highest crime rate in Ventura County, according to the Ventura Police Department. In Oxnard, for example, the number of crimes committed per 1,000 residents was 27.9 in 2005. In Ventura, that figure was 39.8.

In 2005, Ventura police responded to priority one calls — or calls that involve immediate threat to life, traffic accidents that involve injuries and felonies in progress — in less than five minutes about 56.4 percent of the time, a figure far lower that the department’s goal to respond to such calls in fewer than five minutes 90 percent of the time.

Due to lack of grant funding, the department reduced the size of its gang enforcement team. Due to lack of personnel, it also discontinued its school resource program, through which officers patrolled campuses and interacted with youth.

— Stacey Wiebe

Unruly underage drinking is bad

In a bold move to stamp out occurrences of unruly underage drinking in unincorporated areas of the county, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors recently gave a final thumbs up to a new ordinance designed to hold party hosts accountable when minors imbibe.

The new county ordinance follows similar city ordinances passed in Ojai and Fillmore, and the Thousand Oaks City Council is taking a close look at doing the same. Under the ordinance, anyone — including parents, adult friends and even teenagers — responsible for hosting parties at which underage drinking occurs can be fined $1,000 when the gatherings are infiltrated by police.

“This ordinance will decrease the number of young people, particularly females, who get exploited and abused at these parties, as well as decreasing arrests, injuries and, ultimately, the deaths of young people,” said Supervisor Steve Bennett. “It will reduce taxpayer costs and improve public safety in all of Ventura County because law enforcement can focus resources on other problems rather than multiple responses to unruly parties.”

The county ordinance includes a provision by which young people can opt to perform community service instead of paying the fine.

According to Ventura County Limits, a county-wide community partnership to combat underage and binge drinking problems that is supported by the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department, a survey of Ventura County students revealed what most of us already know: that the majority of underage drinking takes place at home, whether it be a student’s own home or the home of a friend.

—Stacey Wiebe

In Brief

UCSB scholar receives grant to improve Latina futures

Laura Romo has watched hours of the most uncomfortable mother-daughter conversations centered on dating, sexuality and AIDS. And she has come away from the experience hopeful.

Her resulting observations debunked prominent stereotypes about the Latino subjects. Romo found that 70 percent of the mothers in these taped interactions placed value on education in their daughter’s lives. So Romo’s question became: “Why do Latinas continue to have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the U.S.?”

Her subsequent dissertation, and her work at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently landed her a $300,000 endowment from the William T. Grant Foundation, enabling her to develop more effective programs in parent education.

“What we’re trying to do is take the ‘Growing Together’ curriculum of Girls Inc. and add culturally relevant activities,” Romo says. “For example, there’s a section [in the current program] where one exercise is that a daughter is to ask her mother about her dating experiences. That wouldn’t be appropriate in this culture. We’re trying to collect information from mothers themselves about what would make this [program] more relevant to them.”

Romo, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor at UCSB’s Gervitz School, notes that “to be able to talk explicitly about sexuality seems to be especially difficult for mothers and daughters of Latino background,” noting the lack of pertinent research in the area.

Romo adds, “I think there are just a lot of stereotypes we have about the [Latino] culture, being that, ‘Well, perhaps Latina women don’t want to use contraception.’ I don’t think it’s just that simple. I think misconceptions are driving their attitudes toward not using [contraception].”

This grant identifies “exceptional early career scholars,” says Grant Foundation President Robert C. Granger.

— Saundra Sorenson

Tenenbaum slams Gallegly’s fundraising efforts

In a press release from 24th District Congressional candidate Michael Tenenbaum’s office, incumbent and fellow Republican Elton Gallegly has been accused of conducting “anemic” fundraising. According to statistics from the Federal Elections Commission Web site, Gallegly raised a mere $3,284 between March 10 and March 31, the period between the last day to enter into the June primary and the close of the FEC reporting period. Gallegly was listed as having the lowest amount of funds raised among all incumbent Republican congressmen in the state. The next-lowest fundraiser on the list was Ed Royce of the 40th district, with a total of $11,530 raised in the same period.

Gallegly’s office could not be reached for comment.

“No thoughtful contributor would support someone whose appeal is effectively, ‘Give to me so I can retire,’ ” Tenenbaum was quoted as saying, alluding to Gallegly’s early March decision — which was later rescinded — to pull out of the race due to health concerns.

Prior to Gallegly’s temporary withdrawal form the race, Tenenbaum, a 37 year-old attorney, had announced his intent to run for Gallegly’s seat and accused the congressman of being in “retirement mode” and at the end of his 19-year congressional career.

However, in a strange twist, Tenenbaum’s office refused to disclose how much the young Republican raised in that same period of time.

— Saundra Sorenson

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