Fullerton police called to residential treatment center nearly 200 times this year

FULLERTON, Calif. (KABC) -- People who live near the Florence Crittenton residential treatment center in Fullerton say they are frustrated with ongoing noise, police activity and fights in the neighborhood.

At the center, the staff provides wraparound services to neglected and abused girls. The CEO says many of these girls have traumatic histories and challenging behaviors, behavior neighbors say they've experienced firsthand.

"Screaming like, 'kill her, kill her!" said Tatyana Castor. "I heard men telling another group of people to get in the car."

Castro called police just this week after hearing a fight in the center's parking lot.

Theresa Chadwick lives in the same neighborhood and says the problems have been ongoing for some time and only gotten worse. She says the girls leave the center and often meet up with suspicious people on her street.

Both women say they feel for these girls but say things have gotten out of hand.

"Nobody got resentful until it looked it got out of control down there, because that brings in an element of danger to the neighborhood," said Chadwick.

In response to neighbors' concerns, Eyewitness News filed a public records request with the Fullerton Police Department. From it, we learned there have been 170 calls for service at the center from the beginning of the year to April 3.

"A significant amount of resources that we expend at the location, we believe that we're doing it for the reasons of keeping those people safe," said Lt. Jon Radus.

Radus said the department is in constant communication with leaders at the center. According to the documents, many of the calls are for girls who have run away, one in particular has done so 25 times. In another of the entries, the watch commander writes, during a fight "clients are not held accountable for their actions by staff, and clients know the staff have no authority to do anything." In another, "Florence Crittenton continued to be a drain on police resources throughout the night."

The CEO of Crittenton Services, Joyce Capelle, sent Eyewitness News this statement:

"I was saddened to learn today that our neighbors called the media to express their concerns. We have long-term relationships with our neighbors and have appreciated their patience and support, knowing how much we all want to help the youth in our care. While I wish they had contacted me directly, I look forward to working with them to allay their concerns. The State of California is in the process of reforming their child welfare systems in a multi-year process called the Continuum of Care Reform. This effort is also playing out nationally through the Families First Act. These efforts are intended to keep kids in family settings wherever possible. That is a laudable goal and one we support through home-based and community-based services. At the same time, the children and youth 'left behind" (I use that term with compassion) are those whose trauma histories have resulted in the most challenging behaviors. As a residential treatment program, our job - our moral mission - is to help these youth manage their trauma-based impulses (including running away, PTSD hyper vigilance, and anger management). California does not allow locked placements - we're here for treatment, not punishment after all - but the unfortunate effect can spill over into the community. At the state level, we are all working through these challenges to find common ground. At the local level, we are working in good faith with our law enforcement partners to reduce the demand on their time while preserving the moral imperative to help these youth cope with their trauma. These are not "bad" kids - these are kids that have had bad things done to them, have undergone abuse, neglect and exploitation, and who need our help - ALL our help - to help recover. they deserve that chance. Fullerton has been our home for decades. We are blessed with the support of the faith community, service clubs, community leaders who serve as volunteers in a variety of ways to help these kids see adults as caring. We have an outstanding staff who literally work around the clock to make a difference. I know that support will continue through this bump in the road."
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