County raises awareness on teen domestic violence

Board of Supervisors proclaim February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month amongst a range of other actions, discussed topics

During its Feb. 6 meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, along with representatives from the Marjaree Mason Center, declared February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (Darren Fraser)
During its Feb. 6 meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, along with representatives from the Marjaree Mason Center, declared February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published February 7, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

FRESNO – During its recent meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (Board) covered a range of items, from the potential expansion of drone fleets, to passing a resolution for the Transitional Shelter Care Facility, to weighing in on the topic of Venezuelan immigrants bused in from Texas and discussing the issue of illegal garbage dumping; but to start the meeting, the Board first recognized February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). 

During the Feb. 6 convening, Supervisor Sal Quintero introduced Nicole Linder, CEO of the Marjaree Mason Center (MMC), and others from the center to accept the proclamation.

Before accepting the proclamation, Linder presented the Board with some sobering statistics, the most alarming of which was that of the 10 most populated counties in California, Fresno County has the highest per capita calls to law enforcement for domestic violence.

Linder mentioned the domestic violence dashboard on the MMC website. In 2023, the Fresno Police Department responded to over 6,700 domestic violence calls. This number dwarfed the next highest number of calls – 662 – by the Clovis Police Department. Sanger Police responded to 145; Selma, 118; Reedley, 97; Parlier, 65; Kingsburg, 50; and Orange Cove, 44.

All told, law enforcement agencies in the immediate and surrounding areas responded to over 8,700 domestic violence calls in 2023 – over 5,600 calls were from residences.

Regarding teen domestic violence calls, Linder said, “Of the calls to law enforcement in 2023, there were 261 reports of dating violence involving a teen, which resulted in 463 offenses. Teens are more likely to experience physical assault, sexual assault and violence with guns.”

Linder said the goal of MMC and its teen program, called “KNOW MORE,” is to raise awareness of the dangers and the pervasiveness of teen dating domestic violence. Violence is learned in the home, which is why MMC and KNOW MORE try to educate middle and high school students on what constitutes healthy relationships – relationships free of violence.

Joshua Gonzalez, the KNOW MORE student ambassador, informed the Board that in recognition of February being acknowledged as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, MMC distributed 2,500 orange T-shirts to students and staff at area schools to “promote and bring awareness to TDVAM.”

Gonzalez said KNOW MORE is active in 27 high schools and 11 middle schools in the Fresno County School District.

“There are over 2,000 students working to end teen dating violence,” said Gonzalez.

Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni, who is a MMC board member, said his officers regularly deal with teen dating violence and assaults. He said education is the key to preventing violence.

“What we are doing today is so important because we have to educate kids regarding proper relationships, proper behavior, what’s right and what’s wrong,” Zanoni said. “Because these behaviors start in high school, they carry over to adults, where they only get worse.”

YOUTH TRANSITIONAL SHELTER CARE FACILITY

The Board also approved a resolution appointing itself as the governing board of the county’s youth Transitional Shelter Care Facility, also known as Mod-C.

Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Sanjay Bugay presented the item to the Board for approval. She said the resolution, including nine action items, constituted the last step required for DSS to receive a license from the California Department of Social Services to operate the shelter. 

Bugay said the issue was actually two years in the making, after the county was unable to place some foster youths in homes.

“Two years ago, because we struggled to place some of our foster youth within 24 hours, we had a need to open a transitional shelter,” Bugay said. “Two years later, we still have the need.”

According to the resolution, the Board would become the governing board of the shelter and Bugay would serve as the executive director. Once these two and the remaining seven administrative actions were approved, DSS could apply for a license from the state. No easy feat; the state has not issued a single county a license in a decade.

“If your board passes this, we are going to be the first county to receive a license since 2014,” said Bugay.

Bugay described the state’s Byzantine regulations for licenses. She told Board Chairman Nathan Magsig the state regulations have been in place for a long time, but the state was essentially trying to drive round pegs into square holes.

“The state is taking group home and short-term residential treatment program operational standards and trying to convert them so counties can use them,” she said. “They’re using terms like ‘board of directors’ and ‘executive director,’ which do not apply to counties.”

Supervisors Steve Brandau and Buddy Mendes chided the state for abandoning its responsibilities.

“In reality, we’re doing a lot of the work that the state should have been doing,” Brandau said.

Mendes was more succinct. “This is just the state in its infinite non-wisdom deflecting a problem that they caused,” said Medes.

VENEZUELAN IMMIGRANTS, ILLEGAL TRASH DUMPING

During the Board of Supervisors’ Committee Reports and Comments portion of the meeting, the supervisors brought up a couple of topics. Brandau mentioned the incident of the 16 families from Venezuela who arrived in Fresno on Feb. 1 after they were bused from Texas as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s ongoing feud with the Biden administration over immigration. Since 2022, Texas has bused more than 100,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities and states.

“I’m trying to wrap my head around this,” said Brandau. “I’ve asked the CAO (County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland) to help me put together a meeting with folks that would know, to help us get our minds around what kind of things we can do to help people.”

The other topic mentioned during reports and comments was the issue of illegal garbage dumping, which was brought up by Mendes; an issue that is being experienced countywide.

“I think we need to beef up our ordinances,” he said. “We need to work harder on this.”

Mendes suggested the county spend more money on intelligence gathering. He said that some of the dumping is being done by people who have been paid by other parties. He said these individuals are not licensed or registered to engage in dumping.

County Counsel Daniel C. Cederborg said the state limits what the county can do about increasing the penalties under its local ordinance.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco said he favors increasing the fines for illegal dumping.

“I could have restocked my entire kitchen just on my drive into town today with all the appliances on the road,” he said. “Our county counsel is always telling us why we can (increase fees) or what the issues are. He should be telling us how to get it done. Don’t tell us what we can’t do. Tell us how we get what we want to get done.”

Board Chairman Nathan Magsig concluded the discussion by saying he has been working on an ordinance with the Sheriff, which he said they hope to bring to the Board soon. The ordinance would allow the county to confiscate vehicles – trucks, trailers – involved in illegal dumping and impound them, which he said he would like to see impounded for 30 days.

“It gets very expensive,” he said. “These illegal haulers will change their minds when they’re facing a $4,000 or $5,000 charge to get their vehicles out of impound.”

MORE DRONES

Captain John Reynolds of the FSO asked the Board to approve a budget resolution that would increase budget appropriations by $126,000 to fund the purchase of aerial drones. The FSO currently operates 20 drones. The funding would allow the department to purchase an additional 24 drones.

The Board agreed to waive the reading of the ordinance in its entirety and set a second hearing of the ordinance at the next Board meeting on Feb. 20.

Darren Fraser
Reporter