Community-led efforts to reduce youth crime underway in Bexar County

SAN ANTONIO – Officials with the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Office say they’re seeing more violent behavior among youths.

Jill Mata, the county’s chief probation officer, said her office typically sees the most referrals during the school year.

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“We’re seeing a lot of assaults and violent behavior on the part of children,” Mata said. “We’re not really seeing an increase in the actual aggravated crimes like robbery or sexual assault, but the cases that are coming in are just very, very alarming.”

One of the concerns during the summer is that children have too much time on their hands and not enough to do.

“It’s important that that time is used constructively and that children are engaged in really pro-social activities and have the supervision of adults,” Mata said.

She said she worries about youths’ access to dangerous weapons.

“The increase in children with weapons and their display of that or kind of glorifying that on social media,” she said.

Mata said the hope is in community and neighborhood programs to help support low-income families, which often cannot afford youth enrichment after school or summer programs. That’s where organizations like UP Partnership step in.

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, chief executive officer of UP Partnership, said the organization is focused on working with more than 100 community investors to support 50 local organizations.

“When a young person acts up in school, or if they act up after school — if they act up in their neighborhood, but there’s still ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 years old — they’re telling us they need more support than what they’re getting,” Lugalia-Hollon said.

Lugalia-Hollon said what matters and what’s lacking is how the community shows up to support them. He said it’s that collaboration with school districts and after-school youth nonprofits that will make a difference.

“Right now, only 6% of our city budget is dedicated to child and youth programs. But young people under 24, 18 to 24 — if you’re talking about crime, that is the primary population we have to worry about. They are 33% of the city population,” Lugalia-Hollon said. “One of the things that we’ve proposed is that, as the city charter gets voted on this fall, that 20% of all revenue growth in the city be dedicated to children and youth.”

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