Solaro, Kingsbury don’t let Tahoe be overlooked by county |

Solaro, Kingsbury don’t let Tahoe be overlooked by county

Rick Chandler

Dave Solaro is acutely aware of the need of a juvenile detention facility in South Lake Tahoe. He frequently went to bat for such a concept as South Lake Tahoe’s chief of police, and now he has taken the battle to El Dorado County government.

Solaro, who retired from the police force when he was elected to the Fifth District supervisor’s seat in June, made his views known during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday in Placerville. Solaro pulled an item off of Tuesday’s agenda, in which the board was asked to approve a $59,000 grant for a study to upgrade the county’s juvenile hall facility in Placerville.

The item was placed on Tuesday’s agenda by the County General Services Department, citing a recently-released Juvenile Hall Needs Assessment Report which made no mention of a permanent facility for South Lake Tahoe.

“I felt so strongly that our needs are not being addressed, that I had to pull it off the agenda,” said Solaro, who took office on Jan. 3. “I felt we were overlooked. Neither I or (South Lake Tahoe Superior Court Judge) Suzanne Kingsbury were notified or consulted when they prepared the report.

“I’m doing what the voters have asked me to do, which is to stick up for Lake Tahoe.”

A permanent juvenile detention center in South Lake Tahoe has long been recognized as a pressing need. But the notion of building such a facility has always been seen as cost prohibitive – until recently.

In November, voters passed Senate Bill 2147, which allows California to follow federal standards in which juvenile and adult offenders may share aspects of the same facility.

In other words, the county would not have to pay for an entirely separate youth facility at Tahoe. The existing adult jail could be enlarged and remodeled to accept juveniles.

“(Such a facility) still must have separate housing, recreation and staff,” Solaro said, “But the two would be able to share laundry and kitchen facilities. And it could all be housed in the same plant.

“So, for the first time, it looks like we can get this thing done.”

But then along came the Juvenile Assessment Report, which was prepared by the Criminal Justice Research Foundation in Sacramento. The report included some misleading statistics, according to Solaro.

“For instance, the report cites that 31 percent of felony juvenile arrests occur through the South Lake Tahoe Police Department,” Solaro said. “But the real total is higher than that, because the report doesn’t take into account the arrests made by the sheriff’s department or the California Highway Patrol.”

The report also includes a composite profile which shows that four of every 10 juvenile arrests in El Dorado County are made by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

But again, that figure is actually higher, because the statistics do not factor in arrests made in South Lake Tahoe by other agencies.

“I think residents should be alarmed at those statistics,” Kingsbury said. “I think that they should demand that the Board of Supervisors look at an effective way to deal with this problem.

“Tourists are reluctant to visit places they view as hotbeds of criminal activity. Unfortunately, juvenile crime seems to be a growth industry.”

Currently, County General Services has no plans other than to create a day use, check-in juvenile treatment facility at South Shore.

“I feel that does not replace the need for a permanent facility,” Solaro said. “Now, I’m all for improving the facility at Placerville. I’m in favor of that. But that doesn’t help us in Tahoe, where the need is so great.”

Solaro suggested – and the rest of the board agreed – that the item should be presented again after a more comprehensive set of statistics regarding South Lake Tahoe juvenile crime can be obtained.

“The report cites that 40 percent of (county juvenile) arrests occur through South Lake Tahoe, but the real figure is more like 50 percent, or higher,” Solaro said. “When you’re looking at 50 percent, then the need is very pressing.”

Judge Kingsbury deals with juvenile crime on a consistent basis – she handles juvenile court cases on Mondays.

“When a juvenile is transported to the Placerville facility, you always have one or two officers performing that transportation,” she said. “That leaves our community with a shortage of protection for that period of time. I know, because I am frequently contacted in the middle of the night to make that choice for law enforcement.”

Both Kingsbury and Solaro feel that juveniles in trouble with the law need their families more than ever. But because of factors such as weather or lack of transportation, many families can’t make the drive to Placerville on a consistent basis to be with an incarcerated youngster.

“We as a society are beginning to realize that it makes more sense to treat the problem at a local level, early on,” Kingsbury said. “Juvenile Hall has programs that Tahoe families have little chance of participating in.

“The Family Reunification Program requires parental participation. Many families would like to have their children go through this program, but they are effectively denied (due to logistics). It might as well not be for them.”

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