Safety Affects Health in Monterey County

Impact Monterey County is a multi-sector collaborative that engaged Monterey County residents in a dialogue about our collective future. Data were analyzed and community conversations were conducted in 2014 and 2015 to determine what people felt about their lives today and what they wanted for tomorrow. The overarching vision that arose is: Together a healthy, safe, and thriving Monterey County.

The main concerns and aspirations expressed from residents of the community were summarized into four priority areas each of which has several subpriorities:

1) People are economically self-sufficient, with opportunities for more prosperity

2) People’s educational achievement supports career aspirations and lifelong learning

3) People are mentally and physically healthy

4) People are safe

In addition to these priorities, several shared values were expressed across all our communities. They want to live in a place where

• Relationships are based on respect, caring, cultural sensitivity, and fairness;

• Everyone works together to foster a connected and engaged community; and

• Community voices drive the design and implementation of services and policies.

Since the initial assessment, Impact Monterey County has coalesced into a Network of local initiatives and collaborates that conduct work which supports the overall vision of a ‘healthy, safe, and thriving Monterey County.’ In particular, these initiatives recognize that one way we can improve health specifically is by changing factors that are social determinants of health, such as economic self-sufficiency, educational achievement, and safety. 

Social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, and play. They affect a wide range of health issues, including diseases, behaviors, and risks. Improving the conditions where people live, learn, work, and play will create a healthier population and society.

Exposure to crime and violence is recognized as a social determinant of health in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion's Healthy People 2020.  

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Gang Violence Ranks High as Perceived Safety Concern

The data below describes the beliefs and attitudes residents have about safety in Monterey County. 

Use the filter below to select your region of Monterey County. 

From a list of ten items, Monterey County residents ranked safety concerns in their county in order of importance. The results show that the highest percentage of Monterey County residents ranked gang violence as the most important safety concern, regardless of region of residence. Residents also mentioned child abuse, sexual abuse and rape, and elder abuse as issues of interest, but these were not as commonly mentioned as the issues listed in the chart. 

We need to get these kids that feel lonely and have no one and turn to gangs to turn to educators or tutors to have them make correct choices.

-Monterey County resident 

In all areas of the County except in Seaside and Peninsula/Big Sur, nearly 1 in 10 residents or their family members living in Monterey County have experienced feeling harmed or threatened in the last 12 months. 

In my community (local) there does not seem to be a problem, but more visible police would make me feel safer in walking the streets of Salinas or Monterey, especially at night.

-Monterey County resident

The highest rates of feeling threatened or harmed in the last 12 months occur in three zip codes - 93905 in Salinas (21%), 93927 in Greenfield (17%), and 93955 in Seaside (14%).  

Most violence is declining in Monterey County. 

The only exception is homicides. 

Because rates of crime are highest in Salinas compared to other areas of Monterey County, and violent crime decreased significantly in Salinas and Monterey County from 2010-2014, we report data only from Salinas below to highlight patterns.  

From 2006-2015, the rate of violent assaults with youth victims ages 10-24 in Salinas, CA decreased from 18 to 13 per 1,000 youth, and this decrease was statistically significant (p-value < 0.001). 

Technical notes: Categories included in our definition of violent assaults: Murder, Robbery, False Imprisonment, Battery, Shoot At Inhabited Dwelling, Threatening A Violent Assault, Preventing/Dissuading Witness/Victim, Resist Or Delay Officer, Resist Arrest W/Injury/Death To Officer, Murder: First Degree, Kidnapping, Kidnap Child Under 14/Lewd Acts, Robbery/Car Jacking, Assault With Deadly Weapon, Spousal Rape, Violation Of Court Order, Fighting In Public/Challenge To Fight, Attempted Murder, Attempted Kidnapping, Attempted Robbery, Attempted Car Jacking 

In Salinas, the most common crime affecting youth (10-24 years old) as perpetrators or victims is violent assaults. 

Why is Gang Violence Happening Here?

Social determinants influence violence and health in communities. 


17% of Monterey County residents live in poverty. From 2010-2015, per capita income in Monterey County ($24,994) was lower than the state average ($30,313). 


Youth in Monterey County ages 16-19 have an average unemployment rate of 27.6%; and youth ages 20-24 have an average unemployment rate of 14%. 

Alcohol Use

30% of Monterey County adult residents report binge drinking at least once in the past year. Binge drinking is defined as five or more alcoholic drinks on one or more occasions for men, and four or more alcoholic drinks on one or more occasions for women. 


In 2013, only 33% of 3rd grade children living in Monterey County were reading at 3rd grade level. Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

In Monterey County, high school graduation rates within four years vary according to race/ethnicity. High school graduation rates are much lower among African American (68%) and Latino (77%) students than among white (88%) and Asian students (92%).

Call to Action

Tackle root causes...homelessness,  mental illness, drug addiction, lack of education and joblessness. Support initiatives that help at-risk youth build self-esteem - through education and job training.

-Monterey County resident

What are we doing now? 

Monterey County has multiple initiatives that are working to prevent violence in the community.

Four Cities for Peace (4C4P) is a regional, multi-sector collaboration seeking to implement the Ceasefire strategy to reduce gang violence and increase positive outcomes throughout the South Monterey County Cities of Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield & King City. Paul Miller, the Police Chief of the City of Gonzales, describes the success of the program, “Wreceived information about guns that were going to be used in shootings in Gonzales. Working with the other 4C4P agencies, we were able to identify where the guns were and get them before they could be used for a gang homicide in our City. Had it not been for the information sharing we may never of obtained that information before the shooting happened.” Click here to see the complete evaluation report. 

The Community Alliance for Safety and Peace (CASP) is a coalition of organizations and leaders from Salinas and Monterey County determined to reduce violence and build a better future for our children. In partnership with CASP, the City of Salinas is recognized nationally as a leader in reducing crime by making enforcement part of a bigger, more integrated strategy of Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement and Re-entry services (PIER). This approach is based on the understanding that "you can't arrest your way out of the problem," but must also address the sources of violence, such as poverty, lack of opportunity, or the pain and anger that can result from a history of racial or ethnic disparities. The key to making those efforts effective is the strategy that coordinates them. Click here to learn more. 

The School Climate Leadership Team is led by the Monterey County Office of education and includes representation from every major school district in Monterey county and non-profits that provide school based services. Together, the team has identified Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as a best practice in improving school climate, student engagement, services to students and tailored response student behavior issues that improve outcomes. PBIS is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture and needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all youth by making targeted misbehavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.

The Monterey County Health Department is also supporting the public health approach to violence prevention. This approach uses a four-step process rooted in the scientific method:

Step 1: Define and Monitor the Problem

Step 2: Identify Risk and Protective Factors

Step 3: Develop and Test Prevention Strategies

Step 4: Assure Widespread Adoption

The Health Department uses the public health approach as part of its work with STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere). The STRYVE process focuses on strategies that prevent youth violence before it starts. Several strategies that fit the needs of Salinas and Monterey County have been selected, implemented, and are being evaluated: 

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program

YES (Youth Empowerment Solutions)

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Safe Dates

Monterey County also has a county-wide effort to create safe and thriving communities. This effort works with the various regional and local initiatives to support strategies identified by the community to reduce violence.

What can be done to make our community safer? 

Impact Monterey's work identified six main areas to focus on:

– More and better education

– More and better trained police

– More access to affordable housing

– More and better programs for youth

– Better jobs

Parent education

Additional evidence-based solutions to violence are included in The Community Guide:

Early Childhood Home Visitation 

Firearms Laws

School-Based Programs

Reducing Psychological Harm from Traumatic Events

Youth Transfer to Adult Criminal Justice System

Therapeutic Foster Care

Other solutions include:

Criminal justice: drug courts, mental health courts, recidivism prevention

Jobs: training, employment opportunities

Education: universal pre-kindergarten, Nurse Family Partnership, primary and secondary educational initiatives

Strengthening communities: community resilience, social support

Data Sources

Impact Monterey County Community Assessment 2015. Retrieved from!/vizhome/IMCAdultData-Safety/Safety in September 2016. 

Salinas Police Department, 2006-2015

US Census. Data on per capita income reported in 2015 dollars. 

California Health Interview Survey, 2012-2014 pooled estimates. 

Monterey County Employment Data, Bureau of Labor

California Department of Education - Cohort Outcome Summary data 2014

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