Communities in San Mateo County Being Revitalized

Silvia Chavez wants to be a role model for her children, and according to her, she is able to do so thanks to the support she has received from the C.A.R.O.N. Program of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Silvia arrived in the United States 17 years ago, not knowing how to read or write, in search for better opportunities. Here, she gave birth to a son and two daughters. Silvia took reading classes at her son’s school in Fair Oaks, where in 2006 she learned about the C.A.R.O.N. Program.

The Community Alliance to Revitalize Our Neighborhood, C.A.R.O.N., was created with the objective of serving as a bridge between the Sheriff’s Office and the surrounding community.

"We want there to be a better relationship between all the residents in the county and the police; we want people to trust us and help us combat crime by being our eyes and ears in the street," says Christina Corpus, deputy from the Sheriff's Office and director of the C.A.R.O.N. Program. She adds that the agency has no ties with immigration.

C.A.R.O.N. offers services such as home visits with families suffering from problems or conflicts and provides referrals to agencies specializing in meeting their particular needs. It also provides classes for parents to help them improve relationships and communication with their children.

Workshops on prevention of gangs, the danger of drug use, and leadership skills are very popular among residents of unincorporated areas such as North Fair Oaks in Redwood City, Pescadero and Moss Beach, where C.A.R.O.N. extends its services.

"I didn't know anything about gangs or drugs until I attended C.A.R.O.N. workshops," said Silvia. Now, not only can she recognize the type and color of clothing worn by gang members, but also she can identify gang signs and operations, knowledge she passes on to her children.

Silvia's 14 year-old son Salvador recently attended a gang prevention workshop and youth leadership classes organized by C.A.R.O.N. "These classes are very interesting and I know they will help me in life," says Salvador. Silvia has noticed a change in her son since he took the class. "Before, he had a very strong temperament and he talked back to me; but now he doesn't," she explains.

Deputy Corpus has also seen many changes in the community. "Ten years ago, when we would go talk to people about a crime that had occurred, nobody wanted to cooperate, even if there were 20 witnesses. Now because of the positive relationship that we have formed, it is the people who call us if they see young people doing things they shouldn't, or if there are gang members close to their homes selling drugs. Our classes are attracting more and more people, and that is a sign of the public's commitment to build healthier and safer communities," she concludes.

For more information about the C.A.R.O.N. Program, call 650-261-9365.

*This story was published on August 21, 2011 in the North Fair Oaks Community Festival newspaper.