Low turnout for community meeting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Low turnout for community meeting

Snowy conditions keep the numbers low, but a few brave souls ventured out Wednesday night to talk with their neighbors about juvenile crime in South Lake Tahoe.

The dinner forum held at Bijou Elementary School was the next step in the Community Engagement Process. People attended to learn more about the results of a neighborhood survey conducted in October. Surveyors knocked on more than 1,200 doors in the Bijou and Tahoe Valley school district boundaries, and completed a survey with 29 percent of the households. At 40 percent of the households there was no response and 9 percent refused to respond.

The surveyors asked questions about general perceptions of the neighborhood, family structure and expectations, use of community services, perceptions of youth and crime, perceptions of schools, and community involvement.

Lynn Nolan, director of the Community Oversight Council, said with the completed survey she’s hopes to raise community involvement and discussion related to finding solutions. The plan on Wednesday was to split the group up into smaller discussion groups and identify four or five specific areas that task groups could work on. With the small number of people that came it wasn’t feasible. The majority of the three hours was filled by Heriberto Escamilla, a senior associate at Philliber Research Associates, the company who put together the survey results.

Escamilla, who has worked on similar surveys in other communities, explained some of the findings and compared them to other sections of the country. He stressed that all of the results were based on people’s perceptions not actual facts.

Of the people surveyed, 94 percent said they weren’t involved in any neighborhood group or association. Several of the people present Wednesday found that statistic disturbing, and they debated the validity of the results.

“Hallmarks of healthy communities are these organizations,” Escamilla said, adding that it was possible that not everyone understood the question.

Angela Latella, 20, attended with her 17-month-old daughter. She’s grown up in South Lake Tahoe and feels things need to change.

“I think this town has a lot of work to be done,” Latella said. “I’m interested because I have a younger sister growing up here. Most teens feel this community only cares about the tourists. You’ve got money, you’re fine, otherwise forget it. A lot of kids do drugs up here. I’d rather not see my sister go down that road.

Escamilla said he was surprised by the number of teens surveyed that answered they weren’t interested in learning the results.

“The number is much lower than other communities I’ve worked on,” Escamilla said.

Latella said she believed local teens would rally if they saw action.

“If kids actually think something will come from it, they’ll be totally behind it,” she said.

Escamilla stressed that the survey should be seen as a tool to generate discussion. Nolan said the Community Oversight Council’s next step will be to hold smaller adult and teen discussion groups.

“From those talks we hope to come up with four or five core issues of concern in South Lake Tahoe,” Nolan explained. “Then we form task forces to find a solution and see it through.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the survey results, or being part of a discussion group should call (530) 542-0740.

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