Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation
Target Area: East Escondido
BCJI Awardee: Escondido Police Department
Research Partner: Escondido Police Criminal Intelligence Unit; San Diego Association of Governments
Focus Areas: Gang violence, Jail Diversion, Drugs
BCJI Funding Year: FY2018
The Eastside of Escondido, ZIP code 92027, is the target location for the Community Transformation Project. It hosts a diverse population, where 88 percent of school-aged students identify as Latino. This area is home to three gang injunctions against the Diablo Gang, which claims the Eastside as their territory. In March 2017, an innocent passerby was unintentionally shot and killed by a Diablos Gang member on the Eastside while coming home from bible study. This crime shook the sense of safety within the community. The safety concerns have spilled over to the neighborhood schools in this Eastside neighborhood, including Oak Hill Elementary School, Hidden Valley Middle School (HVMS), Orange Glen High School, and Valley High School. These schools have reported an increase in violence and drug use. HVMS alone indicated that its suspension rate increased 71 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. Similarly, the elementary school saw a 29 percent increase in its suspension rate.
A 2015 neighborhood survey revealed that residents did not feel safe in their own neighborhood. Of the 225 respondents, 46 percent reported not feeling safe walking in their area alone during the day and 70 percent felt more unsafe while walking at night. In this same survey, 63 percent responded that gangs were affecting their lives, 53 percent reported that drug sales occurred in the neighborhood, and 52 percent listed assaults, fighting, and bullying as a problem.
The Escondido Police Department believes that focusing on the population of East Escondido will help reduce overall violence and crime. Providing crime intervention and prevention services that are culturally sensitive will help empower residents to make changes to their neighborhood.
Community survey information collected during the Planning Phase provided insight into the relationship between residents and the police department while identifying service gaps and measuring project successes. This information was analyzed by the site coordinator, criminal intelligence unit, community outreach specialist, and cross-section partners. Solution development also included the Escondido Police Department’s Community-Oriented Policing Unit and respective city departments.
During the Planning Phase, project partners determined strategies for accomplishing the following goals:
- Improving community-based crime prevention efforts
- Increasing the resiliency of youth living in the target area
- Increasing safety in the target area through resident engagement and implementation strategies
- Reducing violence in the target area through resident engagement
- Increasing intelligence-led policing and community participation through analysis and research activities
- Implementing Crime Prevention through Environmental Design strategies
During the initial implementation, two focus goals were identified after an emerging crime trend was identified and interacting with the community groups in the target area:
- Targeted intervention, prevention, and enforcement of tagging groups that are exhibiting traditional criminal street gang behaviors.
- Increased communication with the largely immigrant community that reside in the target area, education on the role and expectations of the police in Escondido, and training on the use of social technology to help facilitate increased communication.
In order to address these crime trends, the Escondido BCJI team selected several evidence-based strategies:
- The Community Transformation Project is a community policing initiative that seeks to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life in Escondido through micro-environmental focus and social transformation.
- The Project Hero mentoring program was established using the Credible Messenger model, which is based on a core belief that communities have transformative resources within them to lift up justice-involved people in a comprehensive and positive way. The mentors receive training and employ the Forward Thinking Curriculum to assist youth involved in the criminal justice system in making positive changes to their thoughts, feeling, and behaviors
- The gender-specific programs FIT and Girls Rock are after-school programs that use evidenced-based curriculum designed for pre-teen, adolescent, and LGBTQ youth.
Other Key Partners
Escondido Education COMPACT, Escondido Police Department, Escondido Union School District, Escondido Union High School District, Community Housing Works, Victory Outreach, Mentor Management Systems, Oakhill and Manzanita RLA’s, County of San Diego Mental Health Systems and Child Welfare Service
This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.