Advocates say teen center would reduce crime

Gang violence and crime in general will be substantially reduced if the city opens a larger and better teen center — that was the message put forth by a group of youth and their advocates at a community meeting last week.

The city recently purchased Rock Church, located on Escuela Avenue, and members of Youth Motivated for Action and Involvement (YMAI), part of the advocacy group Peninsula Interfaith Action, want to turn it into a teen center. So they held a public meeting at St Joseph Church on July 30 to discuss the need for a teen center in Mountain View.

At the meeting, several local teens, including some who have been involved with gangs and crime, said a center would give youth a place to hang out and a sense of belonging. In effect, they said, it would keep them off the streets.

"We are here today because we have listened to our community leaders of tomorrow and they need a safe place today," YMAI member Diana Marin told the 50 community members who gathered at St Joseph.

YMAI has been pushing for a teen center for three years. Members of the group say the city's current teen center, located on Escuela Avenue next to the Senior Center, is only open two evenings a week and does not offer enough services for youth.

After buying the church last month for $3.5 million, City Council members said they could use it as a second parking lot for the Senior Center. They have not ruled out other uses.

"I live 30 feet from the Senior Center and I have never seen the parking lot full," Denise Olmos said during the hour-long meeting.

Her brother Eddie Olmos, who has been heading the campaign for a teen center for the last three and a half years, started the meeting by asking community members if they knew anyone who had been involved in a gang, or had been killed because of gang-related activities. Most of those present children, adults and seniors raised their hands.

Edwin Zuniga, a Los Altos High School student, said YMAI gave him a sense of belonging and purpose, and helped him change his life.

"I have a little sister and I don't want her to follow in my footsteps going through gangs," he said. "I started changing when I first joined this group. I realized how much we needed a teen center."

YMAI member Anna McMaster said that many of the city's crimes, such as auto theft and burglary, are connected to gang activity. Six of the 10 homicides from 2000 to 2008 were gang-related, she said.

The city and Police Department have some programs in place for at-risk youth, McMaster said, but "it wasn't enough."

No City Council members attended the meeting, but Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga sent a letter.

Abe-Koga told the Voice last week that the council has not made any decisions on how to use the new property, and will probably begin discussing the issue this fall after members return from summer recess. She added that she supported the purchase of the property and that her "priority" is using it has a teen center.

However, she said, the city is still leasing the church to its congregation until June 2011, which means teen activities there would have to happen "during non-church hours."


Posted by 16 yr. MtnView Resident, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I am constantly amazed that Mtn. View politicos & activists never seem to place any responsibility upon parents to raise their own kids with values & morals & keep them out of gangs! Or, expect teens to show any personal responsibility for their own actions. "They, the gangs, made me do it." "You aren't amusing me enough. I have to go steal and break into cars because of you, the community." Mtn. View police should quit coddling gang members and our community should quit bribing these kids in hopes that they won't join gangs.

Posted by 16 yr MtnView resident, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

How much money, total, including staff salaries/benefits, has been spent over the past 20 years on gang prevention, abatement & "underserved" teens? Have the number of gang violence incidences decreased each year? Have the number of gangs/gang members decreased? Has Mountain View crime in general decreased over that time? If not, why not??

In contrast, how much money, total, including staff salaries/benefits has the City of Mountain View spent over the past 20 years on enrichment programs for bright kids who do the right things?

Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 5, 2009 at 12:15 am

Nobody owes your kids anything. If they want to join gangs and kill each other, that's fine. If you want your kids to live, find some way to keep them out of trouble. This idea is nothing but a racket, a scam, and the perpetrators want taxpayer money to fund it. Let's put an end to subsidizing reproduction by people who can't afford to have children. You breed 'em, you feed 'em.

Posted by Steve Moyer, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2009 at 8:14 am

Ever hear of "It takes a village to raise a child?" Well, it takes a community to raise a teen. Teen centers should be places where the community is involved in teaching values, skills and simply having fun with teens.

Teens need more than one or two parents. They need lots of adults to guide them and teach them the wisdom of life. The Republican mantra "you know better how to raise your children than the government" is imply not true for most people. SOme people know better how to raise children than MOST people. Those who know should teach their skills to those who don't know. Government is really a manifestation of the "best of us" leading the "rest of us."

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm

USA is a registered user.

Government is really a manifestation of the "best of us" leading the "rest of us."

Bwahahaha ... Have you been to the DMV? Do you actually have children?

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2009 at 2:15 pm

USA is a registered user.

16 & Old Ben -- That's a bit harsh but true. Government spending and dedicated teachers are not going to save a child who is not getting the message at home.

Posted by Nicole, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 5, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Regardless of whether or not it would reduce crime, I think a teen center would be beneficial in our community because there isn't much to do for teens in Mountain View. Sure, it keeps them out of crime, but the biggest epidemic among teens in this area is apathy coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. Get them off the computer/video games/couch and send them somewhere to socialize and make friends.

Posted by 16yr MtnView resident, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm

What do you mean there is *nothing* for teens to do in Mountain View?? We don't exactly live in the middle of the Sahara Desert! Let's see now: Homework. Sports. School activities. Church/synagogue/mosque activities. Babysitting. Bussing in restaurants. Scouts. Hiking. Bicycling. Dance & music & arts (most organizations like CSMA have scholarships for kids whose parents can't pay the fees). Libraries. Movies (jobs there, too). All kinds of organizations around here already provide activities for teens -- and school tutors too. The missing link: Parents who parent, supervise, guide, direct, lead. What we need are parenting classes teaching such values/skills, along with personal morals & responsibility. How about funding them? And making them mandatory for all parents with kids enrolled in Mountain View public schools? And don't tell me parents don't have the time. I was a single working parent with no back-up resources.

Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 6, 2009 at 1:01 am

I repeat: I OWE YOUR CHILDREN NOTHING. I do NOT want to pay taxes to keep your children out of trouble. [Portion removed]

Posted by MVrez, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

Nothing against teen centers, but here are some questions to consider:

Are there studies to show that this would actually reduce crime and gang membership/activity in this type of neighborhood?

Just what would teens do at this "larger and better" teen center?
What services would the center provide? What activities would be planned?
How well would the teens be supervised, and by whom?

Posted by Nicole, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I didn't say "nothing", I said not much. And that was my experience growing up in Mountain View, anyway. Do you really think parents that aren't teaching their children to get involved in positive activities are going to attend a parenting class? I don't.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 10, 2009 at 11:19 am

It is sad that city council members did not attend. LM in particular does not get the point, hammered in by reports from past teen task force reports, that these members of our community do expect these services. BUT TEENS, seniors got their center and services by VOTING! (except for Old Ben - who would never think of accepting senior services - thanks Ben!).
So, get your organization together teens, pummel candidates for support, leaflet, canvass, show up at council candidate forums, at council meetings (use the 3-minute free speech), and make your issues clear to those who spend the public $.

P.S., Old Ben, you got to vote on representation, expect taxation!
(the phrase from the Revolution was 'no taxation without representation')

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 10, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Here's my observation: I was off Farley St. 2 weeks ago and ALL the sidewalks, which were in perfectly good condition, were being ripped up and replaced. It made no sense. My tax dollars at work!! Most of our streets are paved over every 3 years whether they need it or not. The Sr. center and childcare centers are multi million$$ pieces of art which the elderly and city employees kids attend for almost nothing. We have hundreds of city employees (police, fire, and city workers) getting paid from $100-$225 K/year, with massive benefit packages. Bottom line: a couple thou to get a few teens off the street AIN'T GONNA MAKE A DENT in the $90 MILLION/YEAR City of Mountain View budget, and doesn't even make up a fraction of one police dispatcher's salary.
Whether it breaks up a gang or not, I'm a mom with kids in MV and I for one feel people under 18 here are underserved. If the city is not going to simply write me a check and give those tax dollars back, or bring the salaries back in line, or quit ripping up perfectly good sidewalks and mowing park lawns when the grass is only 2 inches high, then at least fund something for the kids!! Of course there's plenty to do, if you have money, and a car, and a parent to take you there. The point of a "teen center" is that it is walking distance to some low-income kids and offers free activities during hours when kids might be drinking of making trouble. So instead of saying "Don't given them a dime", why don't you "Old MV" folks ask for your money back?? Or at least admit that we should fund all age groups equally? I bet there's PLENTY of stuff in the $90 million per year budget that would tick you off if you knew about it.

Posted by sandy, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Years ago the schools would have what they would call
'summer recreation' and most of the schools in the district would
have 'recreation leaders' and this was the 'drop in-center' for the kids in the neighborhoods. We played games outside, went on field trips to san francisco zoo and even had pot luck at the end of the year with the families of the kids that attended. this was so long ago back in the 70's the center opened at 9 and closed around 4 or 5 to keep them busy all day so that the kids could go home have dinner then sleep. not a word was ever mentioned about money or location. Buses were available for trips to the pool on Rengstorff it was a great time.

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm

To Sandy, I think it would be great if the schools could host some activities for kids of all ages. That's a good synergy between public money and a public space that is not being used anyway during the summer. Besides, all the kids have a local school they can get to without needing a car.

Posted by sandy, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm

it would be great if the schools could do that and work with the city recreation staff but again it boils down to money, money, money
on both sides. the great thing was even if you didn't go to that school you could drop in whenever and make friends. At the time
Slater kids would drop in on Whisman recreation and you ended up bumping into those friends in later years as you entered jr. high
or high school.

Posted by the kid kid, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 5, 2009 at 5:46 am

old ben what if i came into ur state and murdered ur kids would it change your mind and dont take it as a threat because im just saying

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