UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Statement of Comprehensive Strategy for Youth
Family and Community
United States Attorney General
North Park Community Center
4044 Idaho Street
San Diego, California
January 11, 1999
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 1999
MS. RENO: Thank you so very much, Ron Roberts, and
Sandy, Chief Sanders, Judge Milliken, all of you who have taken
today to spend with me and show me what a community can do.
San Diego has done it again. I have been here before
on law enforcement and border issues where I stood with sheriff
-- the sheriff, the chief, the mayor, people of different
parties, the district attorney, a man of different party, Alan
Bersin, but we were here together -- Federal and local
interests -- dedicated to doing something to make a difference,
and there is no community that can match San Diego for doing
just that, and you have done it again with the implementation
of this comprehensive strategy.
This comprehensive strategy was developed -- the
idea of it was developed a long time ago as I tried to figure
out what to do about crack-involved infants and their mothers
as a prosecutor in Dade County, Florida.
The doctors taught me that 50 percent of all learned
human response was learned in the first year of life, that the
concept of reward and punishment and a conscience was developed
during the first three years of life, and I suddenly said to
myself, "What good are you going to be as a prosecutor and what
good will all the jails be 15 years from now if that child does
not understand what punishment means and has no conscience?"
I then looked at the continuity of a child's life
and said, "What good are all the early intervention programs
going to be and the early childhood programs if the child is
not supervised after school and in the evenings where it can
truly make a difference?"
So, we set about with the Juvenile Justice Council
in developing the comprehensive strategy to serve as a road
map, if you will, but with the clear recognition that
communities had to address their needs and resources because
you understand it better, that the state could be a great
partner, and it's a privilege to have the chance to meet the
senator and Assemblywoman Davis -- that the Federal government
could be a partner -- not coming to town to tell you what to
do, but to ask how we can work together to forge a partnership.
You have done it.
The business sector has been here this morning, law
enforcement, the schools, private citizens who just care
deeply, and agencies have talked to me about how they are so
much more effective now because they've got all these contacts
that now suddenly understand what services that agency can
But I want to tell you something. They make it sound
so easy. It is far easier said than done. And the hours that
have gone into this -- sometimes frustrating hours where people
sit and talk and never get anything done, and then to see this
forged as a really common effort is just exciting. It's
exciting for me because I can now go to other communities
around the nation and say, "Look, you say you can't do it
because you're too diverse. You say you can't do it because
you have this problem or that problem. Let me show you a
community that has done it: San Diego. Talk to them. See
what they can do. See what they have done in partnership with
the State of California." You are leading the way.
You've shown what can be done if you analyze the
problem rather than just kind of wade in, trying a little bit
here and a little bit there. With juvenile female crime,
you'll be able to focus priorities and get to the bottom of it.
I hope that you will pursue your plan to evaluate
programs and get rid of what doesn't work and move ahead with
what does work.
Most of all, you have shown what can be done when
we think about the economics of the effort.
Three dollars invested in prenatal care will save a
lot of dollars down the road. Dollars invested in after-
school programs are going to save so much.
Home programs, rather than detention facilities, are
going to save dollars, and you're showing the people of San
Diego the dollars that can be saved. It is exciting.
You're reaching out to parents. I listened to an
eloquent parent advocate this morning talk about how much she
had learned in the process of engaging in a program that you
have helped to sponsor.
But most of all, you have shown something very
special, that young people are great; they want so to make a
contribution; they want so to be somebody and help out in the
community, and if given half a fighting chance, they will do
You have involved the youth of San Diego, and you
have listened to them in the structuring of this effort. I
have heard these young people this morning, and they are really
just splendid. I heard others at another program, and they are
I think you're looking at a future governor of
California and some other people over there. But keep
listening to them. They understand.
When I talk to young people, they tell me that there
are two things they need to keep out of trouble: something to
do in the afternoon, evening and non-school hours, a variety
of programs that can meet a variety of needs with an
opportunity to serve others, and the other thing they need is
some adult to talk to, somebody who knows how hard it is to
grow up in America today, somebody who treats them with
respect, gives them a pat on the back when they deserve it and
tells them when they're wrong in a firm but non-demeaning way.
You all have led the way in showing the strength of the youth
of America and what they can do when involved in an effort like
At an earlier meeting today, I asked one young lady
why the program worked, and she looked off into space, and then
she turned with a great smile on her face and said, "Because
they actually care." San Diego actually cares, and it shows.
I salute you, and I take this report now to the rest
of the nation to show that, because you care, because you
believe in the youth of America and of San Diego, we can have
a substantial impact on the culture of violence in America.
We must say to ourselves, "Yes, crime is down," and
juvenile crime is down, but we can't become complacent. We're
going to have to continue the effort in every way that we can,
bolstering what Judge Milliken is doing in juvenile justice,
making sure that there is punishment that fits the crime,
making sure that there is after-care and follow-up, making sure
that we care.
And if we do it child by child, youth by youth, we
can come into the next century with a nation much less violent,
much more caring, and much, much stronger. Thank you all for
leading the way.
(Proceedings in the above-entitled matter were