A significant portion of high school students in Watsonville don't feel safe downtown after dark, according to a teen safety survey conducted by the new Watsonville Youth City Council.
The results of the survey were presented during the youth council's first public meeting Thursday evening.
The meeting—run entirely by high school students who have assumed the roles of mayor, city council members and city staff—explored education, economic development and public safety.
Members of Interact, a high school Rotary club, asked youth council members and others at the meeting to pledge to tutor elementary school students at least two hours in reading or math, with a goal of tallying 5,000 hours of tutoring and improve Watsonville elementary schools' scores on state tests.
The youth council discussed new businesses opportunities that could attract younger customers and also provide high school students with employment opportunities.
But the crux of the meeting was the Youth Safety Survey. A total of 723 students at Pajaro Valley, Watsonville, Ceiba, Renaissance and St. Francis high schools, as well as homeschool students, were surveyed.
Most feel safe at school, but various parts of town seemed dangerous to teens after dark, according to the data.Youth Safety Survey Do you feel safe? Daytime Nighttime Location Safe Unsafe Safe Unsafe Target 91.5% 8.5% 60.7% 39.2% Green Valley Cinema 91.2% 8.8% 71.8% 28.3% City Plaza 69.4% 30.6% 71.7% 71.7% Second Street near
City Hall 59% 41% 27% 73% Ramsay Park 69% 31% 24% 76% Callaghan Park 77% 23% 31.5% 68.5% My Neighborhood 92% 8% 76.7% 23.2% at School 93.6% 6.3%
One-quarter of teens surveyed said they would ignore it if they heard others talking about committing a violent crime and would not report the threat to school officials or police. Also, 29 percent of youth said they weren't comfortable approaching police and 17 percent said they would not seek help from a Watsonville firefighter.
"This is staggering data and I don't see why we can't change this," said Dulce Sixtos, the mayor and a 15-year-old Ceiba student. "... Watsonville shouldn't look like this."
However, the results of one question came out more positive than youth council members expected: 24 percent of those surveyed said they'd been approached to join a gang. That was lower than they had anticipated.
"We were actually really surprised by that," said Juanita Alvarez, District 1 council member and a Ceiba student.
Lowell Hurst, a Watsonville city councilman, praised the students' work.
“You know the problems and issues better than many adults,” he said. "... I hope you’ll dig deep and continue those efforts.”
The yotuh council was organized by Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino. He said during the meeting that he "could not be happier" to see the group gathered.
"This is my dream come true," Montesino said.