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Nahara Villalobos listens intently to a speaker during the first youth council meeting at the Watsonville council chambers on Thursday night. (Kevin Johnson/Sentinel)

WATSONVILLE -- A majority of teens don't feel safe walking around by themselves at night in many areas of Watsonville though most are comfortable during the day and in their own neighborhoods after dark.

The statistics come from a survey conducted by the fledgling Watsonville Youth Council. The council released the results at its first public meeting Thursday.

Dulce Sixtos, the 15-year-old sophomore at Ceiba College Preparatory Academy who serves as the council's mayor, called the data "staggering."

"Everybody should be able to be outside and feel safe in the day and the night," she said.

The 11-member council, drawn from Watsonville and Pajaro Valley high schools and Ceiba College Preparatory Academy, posed 27 questions in the public safety survey. More than 700 teens responded.

The survey pointed to areas teens perceive as particularly dangerous after dark, including the City Plaza, Second Street and Ramsay Park. Schools, on the other hand, were seen by the vast majority as safe.

Among the other results:

  • 24 percent reported being approached by gangs.

  • 29 percent said they'd avoid police if faced with a trouble; 17 percent said the same about firefighters.

  • 50 percent wouldn't take any action if they heard about a crime.

  • 25 percent said they'd keep quiet even if the crime was violent.

  • 74 percent said youth could make the city a safer place.

    Police Chief Manny Solano said he'd talk to officers about the results, which may show places where more patrols are needed. He said it was "troubling" to hear that so many young people wouldn't approach officers. The department's outreach efforts may not be enough, he said.

    During a public comment period, Bryan Lopez, a 17-year-old senior from Watsonville High, suggested the council dig deeper to uncover the reasons for the findings.

    "If you find out what makes teens feel unsafe, you can limit those factors," he said.

    Others suggested teens needed more activities to keep them away from trouble.

    Pajaro Valley High School junior Adriana Lazaro, 16, said she'd like to see a roller-skating rink in the city.

    "It would be a good place to keep families safe," she said.

    Several adults spoke, praising the council for its efforts.

    "You are going to change this community," said Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant. "I guarantee it. You are the future."

    Jesus Corona said his 16-year-old daughter Selena and the other council members have an opportunity to grow through their service.

    "They are really making history," he said. "It's a learning process and we're also going to be learning from them."

    Follow Sentinel reporter Donna Jones on Twitter at Twitter.com/DonnaJonesSCS