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C.A.R.O.N. – Community Alliance to Revitalize Our Neighborhood: Violence Prevention by Engaging Youth and Immigrant Families

Case Story

Community: San Mateo County
Population:745,858 (2009)

Summary

C.A.R.O.N. (Community Alliance to Revitalize Our Neighborhood), an initiative of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, works to create strong and healthy immigrant families that are integrated into their community. C.A.R.O.N. works in partnership with schools, the faith community, youth groups, and parents. Family engagement and outreach programs offered through C.A.R.O.N. encourage civic participation by educating community members about their rights and responsibilities and help prevent youth violence by supporting ongoing positive connections between law enforcement and community members.

Program Highlights

  • C.A.R.O.N. Youth Mentorship program collaborates with schools to mentor students that may be vulnerable.
  • C.A.R.O.N. partners to host an annual Educational Fair in the unincorporated North Fair Oaks community. Youth and adult students have the opportunity to meet university representatives to learn how to plan for and access degree programs and scholarship opportunities.
  • Outreach workers make home visits in response to referrals from schools and attend “house parties” hosted by trusted community members to share resources to reduce street violence and recruitment of minors into gangs.
  • C.A.R.O.N. offers violence prevention workshops for the community. These workshops review current drug trends, reasons why youth tend to join gangs, types of gang activity and behaviors commonly associated with gang involvement.
  • Sherriff’s deputies convene and facilitate community dialogues to better understand concerns in the community and identify ways for the community and county officers to collaboratively address them.
  • C.A.R.O.N. assists communities in organizing neighborhood watch programs by sharing tools on how to start and operate these programs.
  • A recent Spanish Speaking Citizens Academy in Pescadero includes nursery and farm workers from the coastal community. Topics addressed in this seven or eight week course include: Drugs, Gang Awareness, Domestic Violence, California Highway Patrol (laws and procedures), Civic Engagement, County Emergency Services, K-9 Demonstration, Correctional Facility Tour and Communications Services including Dispatch.

Success Story

Lydia moved from Mexico to the unincorporated North Fair Oaks community, an ethnically diverse community that is significantly less affluent than many other communities in the county. Fearing that her children might fall victim to street violence or possible recruitment by gangs she was considering returning to Mexico when she attended a C.A.R.O.N. community dialogue.

Lydia had reservations about law enforcement officers due in part to her experience with law enforcement in her native Mexico. The deputy sheriffs that worked with the C.A.R.O.N. program helped Lydia overcome that fear and hesitation, “I had the opportunity to see first hand how the Sheriff’s officers talked to the kids and the parents. We saw the other face. They are like us, human beings with emotions …..I learned that the deputy sheriffs are not only there to enforce the law, but always there to help people.”

Making a positive connection with a local law enforcement officer and learning about her rights and responsibilities in her new community led Lydia to enroll in and complete parenting classes and an eight-session Citizens Academy. With her youngest son in high school, she is a student at Canada College and works for the Redwood City School District as a yard duty officer. Lydia is giving back to the community as a literacy tutor for parents and supports the county by helping newcomers transition into the community.

Lessons Learned

  • Some immigrants have an inherent fear and distrust of law enforcement based on their experiences in their country of origin or as recent immigrants in the United States.
  • Positive, personal interactions between local law enforcement and community residents can be a powerful violence prevention strategy as it helps strengthen communications and build mutual trust.
  • Partnering with trusted community members can help law enforcement and other local officials build connections with immigrant communities, which in turn can lead to better informed public programs.
  • Bi-lingual staff or staff who come from immigrant families can be effective bridge builders between local government and the communities they serve.
  • Volunteers can help connect newcomers to local governments thus decreasing the burden on staff.

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