Thursday, October 17, 2013

A perilous situation in Greenfield

Drive around the streets of Greenfield in the afternoon, after school's over and before parents come home from the fields.

You'll see them by the dozens, maybe the hundreds. Children roaming the streets unsupervised, ready to cause some trouble.

It's not the children's fault. They have nobody to look after them, nothing to do. So they seek refuge in the library (I've heard reports of staff describing their facilities as the "town's babysitter"). 

Yesterday, when the TechMobile from the Media Center for Art, Education & Technology showed up, about 40 children happily overwhelmed the teacher with their demands for attention.

So, what happens when there's no TechMobile? When the library closes? The children are still there, playing ball by themselves.

Or getting recruited by older, more street savvy kids. Being instructed in the arts of causing trouble.

Folks, our unsupervised children in Greenfield today are our gang problem tomorrow. And I say "our problem" because this needs to be tackled collectively. Their parents, they're in the fields making money for their families and creating wealth for Monterey County. Specially these days of a reduced workforce (yes, all those reports of fewer immigrants crossing the border are true) harvesters are being asked to work longer hours so vegetables don't rot in the fields. By the time parents make it home, they've been away from their homes for 16 or 17 hours. Plenty of time for the kids to get in trouble.

Something needs to be done, and soon. We've already seen crime levels in the Salinas Valley spike in recent years, and if this amount of unsupervised children continues, it's only going to get worse.

Let's hear some ideas. Let's see somebody step into action. Keep me posted.


  1. Thanks, Claudia. This need is not new in South County and elsewhere in Monterey County, and yet, as you've pointed out, the challenge has become even more intense for many families.

    It takes a multi-faceted, wide community effort to meet these needs. Among the many things that, when all are put together, may help: engaging kids in biking. Here are some ideas to get folks started, should they want to help in this way. Of course, many of the children will first need bikes, helmets, bike locks, and so on. That help may be available from and other bike community leaders:

    On the limited number of days, and evenings, that I've biked Greenfield thus far, it was often pretty windy. And although there are some bike lanes, many areas don't feel well suited for children to bike safely. In my experience, mostly there are teen and adult males biking Greenfield.

    While we can't change the wind, improved bike infrastructure and other things to make Greenfield more bike-friendly can help engage more children and teens in biking.

    Wouldn't it be cool to have an Open Streets event like Ciclovia in Greenfield, even if on a more modest scale, simply to give kids a safe space to bike, walk, run, skate, and otherwise be physically active? An ambitious undertaking for whoever would organize it, for sure, but what's been learned at Ciclovia Salinas could help South County organizers.

    An 11/2/13 South County mountain bike race is for all ages; a parent or guardian must accompany their child, which will be challenging for most of the kids you refer to.

    See re TAMC's efforts for South County. Volunteers are needed to help at bike safety rodeos. Contact the folks listed for updates on what's scheduled and needed.

    There was a South County Health & Safety fair in 2012, which included bike safety outreach and some donated helmets. Greenfield PD helped fit the helmets, which were donated by Naval Postgraduate School Cycling Club, Velo Club Monterey, and others. The fair's organizer hoped to make it an annual event but it wasn't repeated in 2013.

    Yet it's really people, not things or activities, that are most vital in this situation--background-checked, dedicated, reliable people who can be present with children on a regular basis. You're right--in Greenfield, and also elsewhere in South County, in North County, in Salinas, there are many children whose parents are off to work in the fields (or at other jobs) very early and late. The most fortunate children have a caring grandparent or other relative nearby where they can go for positive supervision and activities. Many children, though, are left to perhaps hang out with the neighbors or fend for themselves. And BTW, you're right; when I've been in Greenfield's library, it was a much-used place, a community treasure.

    It's easy in Monterey County to forget the wide variations of income and other support available to raise children well. See the chart at the top of Bicycling Monterey's Spanish resources page for a sharp look at the differences in Greenfield and other Monterey County cities.

    Thank you for highlighting this critical need of our local children.

  2. I am happy to report the following information. I encourage people to volunteer to help at these bike safety rodeos.

    Ecology Action of Santa Cruz has contracted with Transportation Agency for Monterey County to put on Bike Smart rodeos. Four rodeos are scheduled for Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Greenfield beginning on Friday, December 6, 2013 and continuing through Tuesday, December 10. The rodeos are being conducted with the four 5th grade classes at that school site.

    For details, including how to volunteer, see