Lives Worth Saving

Excellence in Volunteerism Award Winner

Orange County Probation Department
Volunteers in Probation

The Probation Department recognizes the danger of street life for teens. In 2007, Juvenile Hall reached a high of 54 youth in custody facing charges for murder and attempted murder. The issue of gang violence has always been viewed as the responsibility of law enforcement and the Criminal Judicial System.

With the escalation in gang violence, Chief Probation Officer Colleene Preciado contacted the Chaplains who serve Probation youth and asked for their assistance. She then worked collaboratively to bring the community together to closely examine youth gangs. On June 21, 2008, the Orange County Probation Department and the Orange County Faith Based Community initiated the first gang summit at Santa Ana College. More than 250 attendees participated in the Lives Worth Saving Summit, which successfully opened the door for faith based organizations to work directly with all components of the Criminal Justice System, including Sheriff, Police, Probation, Parole, State elected officials and the Courts. The collaborative effort addresses gang issues, formulates guidelines and offers working solutions for families that help decrease gang violence in their communities.

Through the Lives Worth Saving Program, the Orange County Faith Based Community takes an active role in positively impacting youth involved in gangs and addressing the dysfunction that accompanies their lifestyle. By developing and establishing clear and mutual roles of cooperation between faith based organizations and the Criminal Justice System, a model can be developed to impact gangs, provide resources for families and create safer neighborhoods throughout Orange County.

The following excerpt that appeared in the August 21, 2008 edition of the OC Register demonstrates the successful collaborative effort between law enforcement and the Orange County Faith Based Community whose members serve as volunteers with the Lives Worth Saving program.

Through the efforts of Operation Restore Peace, residents living in gang territories can communicate with law enforcement and church volunteers who work through the Lives Worth Saving Program. Community members are given the information and support to recapture their communities and establish a safer environment for their families.

The Lives Worth Saving Program creates a collaborative road map for faith-based outreach to youth and families who are at-risk or caught up in youth gang violence. Volunteers are recruited to serve in existing gang intervention ministries and to provide gang members opportunities to leave their gang affiliation. This is Orange County's first collaborative effort that offers faith based organizations an opportunity to work with numerous entities within the Criminal Justice System. Since June 2008, Lives Worth Saving volunteers have dedicated more than 5,300 hours to reduce gang violence, promote safe neighborhoods and mobilize community members.

Click here to access the Orange County Probation Department Web site.