Editor’s note: Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella writes about the city’s youth shelter run by the nonprofit Commuity Service Programs and how CSP’s partnership with the Laguna Beach PD is yielding dividends.
It was an afternoon of tacos, music and open conversation on Sept. 30, as residents of the nonprofit Community Service Programs’ Laguna Beach Youth Shelter and my colleagues at the Laguna Beach Police Department got together to build up relationships and break down walls.
Capt. Jason Kravetz, who introduced me to CSP, joined me at the lunch, along with Capt. Darin Lenyi. We were eager to spend quality time getting to know these at-risk kids, and I applaud the CSP Laguna Beach Youth Shelter, which does amazing work in serving youth ages 11 and 17 — most of whom are trying to cope with issues kids should never face.
The afternoon “lunch and learn” was one in a series of ongoing monthly lunches held for the Laguna Beach PD to connect with at-risk youth. Opportunities for encouraging interactions with kids on the fringe where law enforcement can connect positively are very important for our community outreach.
We want to help save these kids and serve as mentors and positive authority figures. We hope every interaction is a small nugget of hope that these kids can keep with them for a long time.
About 90 percent of our community interaction stems from something negative, so not only are we eager to positively interact with these youth, but we are hoping to change the way that these at-risk youth view law enforcement. We have the rare opportunity to really show that we are here to help and protect them.
Being an active part of the community can breed great success for officers, too. Community policing and outreach is our responsibility, and we take it seriously.
At lunch, some of the kids performed music for us; they sang, played the guitar and piano.
For me, seeing the kids responding to us, opening up to ask more questions and sharing their talents showed us that the lunch was a success. This lunch offered kids a break from the heavy issues happening in their lives and we took pride in seeing that they felt comfortable and had a sense of calm in our city.
These kids deserve every chance they can get at a better life — and a calmer life. They are on the right track at the CSP Laguna Beach Youth Shelter, and we look forward to the next luncheon to continue this path with new residents next month.
We commend CSP for helping our community’s at-risk youth. They provide emergency shelter, meals, 24-hour supervision, counseling, academic tutoring, prevention education and invaluable life-skills. The CSP Laguna Beach Youth Shelter has served more than 3,850 at-risk youth, most of whom suffered early childhood trauma, and an estimated 10,000 family members since 1979.
We encourage other agencies to delve into this type of partnership as well.
Community policing and outreach is our obligation as law enforcement officers, and helping to break down walls of at-risk youth is huge for their future and the future of our community.
About Community Service Programs — Community Service Programs (CSP) is a non-profit agency committed to serving children, adults and families living in Orange County who are involved with or at-risk of involvement with the justice system. CSP’s model programs assist over 111,000 community members annually, including abused children, struggling families, acting out adolescents, victims of crime, and those in need of mediation services. For more information on CSP and its programs, visit http://www.cspinc.org/.