Probation officer program seen as successful |

Probation officer program seen as successful

Gregory Crofton

A South Shore program that puts a probation officer in schools 30 hours a week is expected to be used as a model on the West Slope.

Last month the state gave the El Dorado County $540,000 for juvenile crime prevention. The county plans to use that cash to split the time of five probation officers between five high schools and four alternative education schools on the West Slope.

The officers will be an integral part of a Community Alliance to Reduce Truancy, a program modeled after South Shore’s School Resource Probation Officer program. Since February 2000, a probation officer has been posted at South Lake Tahoe’s middle school and high school.

Having an officer at school is helping, says an annual report released by the probation department.

Of the 31 minors monitored by the officer, only four at-risk juveniles had to be sent from their homes to a group home or ranch placement.

The officer also tracks youths going from T.R.E.C., or South Shore’s Transitional Reporting and Education Center, back to public schools. The report says both academic performance and attendance of these students have improved since the program was introduced.

Tahoe Tribune’s request to interview a juvenile who participates in the program was denied.

Angie Vejar, deputy probation officer assigned to South Shore public schools since September, said her experience has been a positive one. She emphasized communication and the value of working hand-in-hand with school officials.

“Right now I have 13 (juveniles) under my specific caseload,” she said. “But I keep my eye on everybody. I try to keep the communication lines open. Constant communication is very important.”

Her duties include random drug tests, conducting searches, checking attendance and academic performance and occasionally making home visits.

“I enjoy the contact I have with the kids I’m supervising,” she said. “I’ve met some wonderful students up there. The kids respect who I am and don’t step over the line.”

Jack Stafford, associate principal of South Tahoe High School, said having a probation officer on campus has made a difference.

“Absolutely. It gives us another set of eyes,” he said. “It has a drastic effect on their behavior in a positive way. I don’t know how these kids regard them, but they’re not intimidated by them.”

The money earmarked for CART will come from the Schiff-Cardenas Crime Prevention Act, a bill approved by the governor in September 2000. It provided more than $540,000, from a pie of $121.3 million, to El Dorado County.

South Shore pays for its school resource probation officer with money it receives from an organization called Temporary Assistance For Needy Families. El Dorado County Deputy Chief Probation Officer Gregory Sly he expects funding for the South Shore program to continue.

“I think it has greatly enhanced communication,” Sly said. “At school we can be there to assist throughout the day. Now they have immediate access to the probation department.”

Right now at South Shore 200 youths are on probation. Sly said probation officers today are fortunate to have a variety of resources draw on.

“Now we can assess their needs better,” he said. “In 1996, I had 100 minors on probation myself. It was certainly much harder to provide as much coverage. Today at the high school with additional services, and through grants, TANF, and county funds we have ability to better assess kids.”

Sly said school resource probation officer stationed at West Slope schools will be especially helpful.

“One of the challenges is the distance from high schools to the probation office,” he said. “In Placerville, you’re talking about having get up to Georgetown or El Dorado Hills. It will be even more of an enhancement on west slope. I’m pretty happy about that.”

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