The City of Santa Clarita was the recipient of the League of California Cities’ highest honor – the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence – for its “Neighborhood Services Team and Outreach Program,” as announced this afternoon at the League’s annual conference in San Diego, being held Sept. 5-7.
The “Neighborhood Services Team and Outreach Program” was the winner in the Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics and Community Involvement category. The City created the civic engagement program to build community trust, enhance public safety, increase resident involvement, and bridge cultural divides with City staff, law enforcement and local service agencies in the East Newhall area. Concerns were mounting in this neighborhood where safety for youth and families was in jeopardy due to gang activity and crime, and resident compliance with City codes was less than 50 percent. Unfortunately residents in the neighborhood were not reaching out to the City to help combat these issues. As a result, the program was designed to build trust so that together, residents, City staff and other public agencies could collaborate and address important issues like crime, gangs, graffiti, and blight.
The one-year program results are inspiring. In 2011, part one crimes, including homicide, robbery and grand theft, decreased 34 percent in the area; while part two crimes like vandalism, narcotics and weapon charges decreased by nearly 19 percent. More than 80 percent of residents who received citations in East Newhall came into compliance with the City’s municipal code, compared with earlier attempts, which were less than 40 percent successful.
Additionally, the Neighborhood Services Team has helped deter youth from becoming gang members. In just one year, the City of Santa Clarita saw an eight percent increase in youth attendance at the Newhall Community Center as a result of additional programming and classes targeting this area.
“The City of Santa Clarita is honored to have been recognized by the League for excellence in developing a program that enhanced our community’s quality of life,” said Mayor Frank Ferry. “Our goal is always to provide services that best meet the needs of our community. When we develop a program that not only helps Santa Clarita but can help other cities facing similar challenges, our efforts are that much more rewarding.”
The Helen Putnam awards program holds a long tradition with all California cities as being a coveted and premier award, recognizing outstanding achievements by California cities in a variety of categories that deliver the highest quality service in the most effective manner possible.
Helen Putnam was a mother, school teacher, principal, mayor and county supervisor. But most of all, Helen Putnam was a person who viewed meeting one’s potential as the measure of success. Excellence to Helen Putnam was shown by someone who did his or her very best. She was as supportive and loving of people who did their best as she was of people who did the best. To the League and to California Cities, Helen Putnam defined excellence.