The Kids Aren't Alright 

A man insults statuary, gun-toting teens take BART, and where are the Halloween murder-case kids going?

A certain youth sports team "capped off a record-setting year by winning the Nevada AA State Track and Field championships at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas," reads a news release. "The hard-running Rams, led by a strong cast of sprinters, throwers, and jumpers, overwhelmed runner-up White Pine High School." Those speedy Rams — trained by a throwing coach, a pole-vault coach, and a jump coach — aren't students at a regular school but at Rite of Passage, the self-described "School for Troubled Youth" that two boys involved in the Halloween murder of Alameda teen Ichinkhorloo Bayarsaikhan have been ordered to attend. Other recent ROP activities include an underwater course at Carson City's International Space Station "to teach students the fundamental principles of math and science associated with scuba diving and how it relates to astronaut training." Re-enacting "how NASA astronauts ... acclimate themselves to a near-zero-gravity environment," flippers-clad kids "learned about Boyle's law, Archimedes' principle, Henry's law, buoyancy, volume density, and basic physics taught along with math associated with dive tables and pressure computations."

"We do not believe our students are bad, but they have made bad decisions," declares ROP's web site, calling the facility "an environment where all youth feel safe ... and accountability for behavior is a source of pride."

"It's not a summer camp," ROP staff writer Cindy Matheus tells Apprehension. "They are incarcerated, technically."

Word up

Alameda County Probation Department unit supervisor Doris Balabanian spent twenty-plus years interviewing juvenile offenders. She shares many East Bayites' concerns about an apparent rise in youth crime: "We agonize about these cases." As for why kids burgle homes and mug strangers on school days, she says they are cutting class, bored, and quite likely illiterate. She made a practice of asking young suspects whether they had library cards. "I'd show them a poem to see how well they could read, if they could read." Many couldn't. In their families, "there isn't a lot of value placed on these things." In the juvenile-justice system, "the kids we deal with are the kids who don't have library cards."

Sweat the small stuff

Pint-sized perps are indeed finding many lively alternatives to reading. A pistol-packing seventeen-year-old stole a fourteen-year-old's phone and iPod in a Lake Merritt station stairwell on January 25, according to BART police. The next day at the El Cerrito Del Norte station, "an officer observed a seventeen-year-old male shoving a bulky object into his pants pocket." The boy "tried fleeing," but was caught — with a loaded, stolen .357 caliber revolver. On probation for narcotics offenses and wielding a fake ID, he was booked at Juvenile Hall. A thirteen-year-old Richmond boy was arrested in El Cerrito for possession of an illegal weapon on January 14, according to El Cerrito police. He was released to a guardian pending the filing of charges by the Contra Costa County DA's office. A fourteen-year-old Richmond boy was arrested in El Cerrito on January 15 after being identified as having stolen someone's iPod at Moeser Lane and San Pablo Avenue. He too was released to a guardian pending charges. Two boys age fifteen and sixteen were arrested on January 30 after Fremont police — who say both are Norteño gang members — allege that the younger boy missed his intended target and shot into a nearby home. The older boy also was armed. After a four-year-old Oakland girl reported that a fourteen-year-old boy had sexually assaulted her, she was interviewed at Oakland's Child Abuse Listening, Interviewing, and Coordination Center (CALICO). "The victim described the incidents in question," reads a police report. The suspect was transported to Juvenile Hall on January 23.

Nothing is sacred, part III

On December 30, three boys and a girl walked into Berkeley's Yoga Mandala Studio — whose goal, according to its web site, is "to cultivate a community that embraces the sacred feminine as the very fabric that knits us all together, both women and men in the hoop of life." One youth asked to use the restroom. When he returned, three kids distracted the clerk; the other seized the cash box. They fled, according to the Berkeley police log. "Americans generally report a sense of purposelessness and deep dissatisfaction with their lives," reads the studio's mission statement, "the inevitable outcome of a society founded on greed, violence and the pursuit of personal happiness above the greater good. It has only taken 200 years for this path of rampant consumption, commercialism and the elevation of the importance of the individual over the whole of society to undermine the family, the community, and the importance of selfless virtuous conduct. No amount of money, material possessions, entertainment, or psychotherapy can alleviate the emptiness produced by such a path." True, true. And on January 22, a woman entered the office at St. John's Church in El Cerrito, according to a police report, "and stole cash."

Simulacrum scurrility

Was it a bronze Karl Rove ... or just a harmless garden gnome? In Walnut Creek on January 24, the driver of a truck bearing a meat-company logo was "getting out and knocking on doors" — and, according to the police log, "made obscene gestures to the reporting party's statuary."

Midday murder

An Oaklander was walking home from MacArthur BART on January 30 when, as he posted on a listserv within hours, "I heard shouting and yelling across the street from King smoke shop in front of the big Food Not Bombs house on the corner of Apgar and MLK. Then I heard five or six gunshots and 'Oh sh*t, look at dat n****r.' A number of kids/young adults ran across the street. ... I saw one guy with an oversized white T-shirt, black pants, maybe dreads, running backwards. He reached behind his shirt. The thugs scattered up MLK and down Apgar in seconds." It was the drive-by shooting in which twenty-year-old Nathan Taylor was killed, another man wounded: "I called OPD at 1:19 p.m. from Marcus Books (I ran there after hearing the gunshots). A few minutes later two ambulances and a bunch of cop cars showed up. Wish I saw more, wish I didn't see it at all." This posting prompted neighbors to wonder what ever became of the Ambassadors Program approved and funded last summer by the City Council in which at-risk youth would be trained to escort commuters around BART stations, pick up litter, and give directions. "Please provide us an update," one neighbor wrote promptly to Councilperson Jane Brunner, who developed and proposed the program last May. "Why does this seem to be another unfullfilled safety program while Oaklanders continue to die? Thank you."

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