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2011 Employee Recognition Awards - Justice


GOLD - Sgt. Jim Ross

For the past 10 years, a residence in Felton has been a consistent source of drug dealing and blight, leading to ongoing complaints from neighbors and numerous arrests and other enforcement measures by law enforcement personnel. In spite of previous enforcement actions, problems had remained until Sgt. Jim Ross was assigned to the Sheriff's San Lorenzo Valley Service Center. After being contacted by neighbors who were distressed with the problem residence and the lack of a permanent solution, Sgt. Ross immediately coordinated a collective effort involving the Sheriff's Narcotics Team, patrol deputies assigned to the area, the Highway Patrol, County Planning and Environmental Health staff, Supervisor Mark Stone, and neighbors, culminating in a community meeting to discuss the various problems and allow everyone to participate in a solution. As a result of the dedication and unwavering efforts of Sgt. Ross, numerous occupants of the residence were arrested for drug violations (including drug sales), weapons violations, and parole and probation violations. Sgt. Ross is credited with making a number of those arrests personally. After a process that involved a year's worth of ongoing focus and attention by all affected parties, the property was eventually foreclosed upon, to the great relief of surrounding neighbors who have also taken the time to acknowledge the outstanding work of Sgt. Ross on behalf of a grateful community.

SILVER - TIED between Members of the County Gang Task Force and Members of the Recidivism Reduction through Research-based Rehabilitation and Reentry (or R5) Team

County Gang Task Force

Left to Right:
Mario Sulay
Kara Taylor
Jeff Simpson
Anthony Gonzales
not pictured: Henry Montes

Gang activity creates a predatory environment in our community and in our schools, neither recognizing nor respecting jurisdictional boundaries. This has led to a problem that has grown in size and scope while declining budgets and dwindling resources have made law enforcement responses to these activities reactive rather than proactive, and in some cases delayed. In response to these increasing problems, in July of 2010 District Attorney Bob Lee and Sheriff Phil Wowak committed to a regional approach to bring proactive enforcement efforts to address these serious problems and instill a sense of security in our communities, resulting in the creation of the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force. With a clear mission to proactively investigate, apprehend, and prosecute criminal street gang members for violation of state and federal laws, members of the Gang Task Force honed their knowledge of gang activities, established a solid group which allied agencies could join, and used the special expertise they gained to train personnel from other agencies. After only a year of operation, this regional approach to a prolific crime problem has yielded outstanding results and a level of communication and collaboration not seen in this county in decades. It is fitting to publicly recognize each member of the Gang Task Force for their efforts to combat gang violence in our community.

Recidivism Reduction through Research-Based Rehabilitation and Reentry (R5) Team

Left to Right:
Andrew Davis
Francisco Figueroa
Sgt. Andrew Lerios
M'Liss Keesling
Sarah Fletcher
Alphonse Arretz
Yolanda James-Sevilla

These team members from the Sheriff's Office and the Probation Department have worked with community non-profit agencies to create the R5 team to provide seamless reentry services that begin in jail and continue in the community to maximize recidivism reduction, public safety, probation success, and productive citizenship by former inmates. Members of the R5 County team have successfully implemented a complex, effective program with documented gains in public safety, new community partnerships for collaborative service delivery, and new evidence-based methods and systems that will help guide and structure countywide justice system reform efforts. The R5 County team has implemented the use of validated assessments to determine individualized reentry plans, the effective cognitive behavioral "Thinking for a Change" curriculum, and a successful multi-disciplined approach to crime intervention. In addition to recidivism risk, the R5 team tackles other issues that plague this population, including poverty, low literacy, poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, legal problems, transportation issues, and interpersonal conflict. Their efforts have helped the County implement public safety realignment and prison reform efforts that serve as a model for replication.


BRONZE - Shared by Michelle Cardinale, Lorena Alcalde, and Victoria Gonzalez of the District Attorney's Victim Witness Assistance Center

Left to right:
Lorena Alcalde
Michelle Cardinale
Victoria Gonzalez

Each year, Victim Witness Advocates help 1,800 victims and their families navigate the criminal justice system by answering questions, advising victims of their rights, and helping them access services available to victims of crime. Because of their efforts, victims do not have to travel the unfamiliar road of victimization alone. Michelle, Lorena, and Victoria perform a wide variety of tasks, including reviewing victim-related crime reports from all law enforcement agencies in the county; making funeral arrangements with bereaved family members; working with community-based organizations, mental health providers, and area law enforcement agencies; evaluating the needs of victims; and making necessary referrals. They work with sexually explicit, graphic, and violent documentation of crimes committed against people of all ages from all walks of life and are often subjected to people who are hostile and/or traumatized. Lorena, Michelle, and Victoria are passionate about justice for victims. They understand the toll that crime takes on our community and the measures that are available to help alleviate trauma and the frequently devastating effects of violence on the lives of crime victims and their families. They consistently provide quality service so that victims are heard and empowered. Victoria, Michelle, and Lorena are each to be commended for the extraordinary support they provide to victims of crime in our community.