Youth violence spotlights juvenile probation

Less than two weeks ago, six teenage boys were wounded in two related shootouts between rival street gangs in The City’s Western Addition.  A few days later, a 15-year-old boy was gunned down while standing on a street corner in the Mission district. Last week, a 20-year-old man was shot to death about a mile away.

While investigations are ongoing and confidentiality laws prevent San Francisco authorities from discussing individual juvenile records, there is a sizable chance that some of the youths involved already have criminal histories.

The recent streak of youth violence in The City’s Mission and Western Addition districts has put the oft-criticized, cash-strapped San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department in an even brighter spotlight. However, Bill Siffermann, the chief probation officer for the Juvenile Probation Department, who was recruited from Chicago two years ago, is optimistic about some changes in the pipeline.

There are 600 juveniles on probation, 20 percent of whom are considered high risk and about 10 percent of whom are responsible for major violent crimes. There are 50 probation officers assigned to them, or one for every 12 cases.

In practice, however, some officers are responsible for 30 to 40 kids, Siffermann said. In recent years, Siffermann said, officers have become so bogged down in paperwork that they are asking the juveniles to come to them, rather than visiting them at home and school.

“That’s not an effective way to work — the magic is in the community,” Siffermann said.

Despite a recent $2 million funding increase, bringing the budget to $39 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, the department is still reeling from past cuts that slashed dozens of positions, many of them supervisors or clerical workers. For example, the person who picked up department mail from City Hall was let go, and when Siffermann came on board two years ago, the mail had not been picked up in four months.

However, Siffermann said nine new officers will be on board by this fall. He is also working to change the way cases are distributed among probation officers, assigning officers to specific geographical regions.

Siffermann is also hoping to implement “call ins” soon, regularly held workshops for juveniles on probation with program coordinators, educators and probation officers on hand.

Residents rallying last week to stop the violence in the Western Addition have been calling for just that.

“I see people I grew up with fighting,” said 17-year-old Manika Clay, who just graduated from Galileo High School. “We need more community involvement and more police being serious.”

arocha@examiner.com


What measures would help stop the violence?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco plans to reopen the Upper Great Highway, which had been closed for recreational use during the COVID pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco plans to reopen the Upper Great Highway, which had been closed for recreational use during the COVID pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco plans to reopen the Upper Great Highway, which had been closed for recreational use during the COVID pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Great Highway to reopen on weekdays, sparking renewed debate

The Upper Great Highway soon will reopen to vehicles for the first… Continue reading

Second grader Genesis Ulloa leads students in an after-school community hub in a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF parents face school year with hope, trepidation and concern

‘Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it’

A fire lookout with the U.S. Forest Service feeds a chipmunk in the Tahoe National Forest. California officials closed some popular trails and nature areas in South Lake Tahoe for the week after a dead chipmunk tested positive for the plague. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
Yes, Lake Tahoe chipmunks have the plague. But don’t worry (too much)

By Johnny Diaz New York Times When California officials closed parts of… Continue reading

After nearly 15 years of being part of Google, the most successful money machine in internet history, it’s still not clear that YouTube has fulfilled its financial potential both for itself and everyone involved in its vast digital economy. (Dani Choi/The New York Times)
Is YouTube a success? It’s a serious question

By Shira Ovide New York Times This question will sound ridiculous, but… Continue reading

Most Read