The city of Escondido, which means, "hidden" in Spanish, was founded in 1888 and has a median age of 33 years. Escondido has a historic downtown that his home to many restaurants and businesses. Escondido has been a rural community with an agricultural focus for the majority of its lifespan. However, over the last 25 years, Escondido has grown significantly to a suburban community with the largest industries being retail, construction and health care. With this changing focus, so did the makeup of Escondido residents. Many recent immigrants make Escondido their first home in San Diego County. This shift in agricultural to industrial business caused a transition period for many previous long-time farmers.
More specifically, Escondido is located in North San Diego County and has a population of 150,783, with 27% of the population under the age of 18. Of those residents, 43% make less than $50,000 a year, giving Escondido a median income of $58,284, the lowest in North San Diego. Fifty one percent of the residents in Escondido are Latino, many of them recent immigrants, which contributes to their lower socio-economic status. The Mission Park neighborhood is located at the central core of Escondido and is mostly comprised of multi-family housing, which is 36.4% of city housing. This neighborhood has the highest percentage of people living in poverty in the city. Escondido is also home to 5 documented Latino territorial street gangs. Two of which are very active and have a long history of rivalry. The Diablo Gang claims the East end of Escondido including most of Mission Park. The Westside Gang claims the West end of Escondido. There are frequent territorial disputes between the two gangs, many resulting in violence and even homicide. The gangs support themselves by selling and distributing marijuana.
Escondido also has its own police and fire departments who provide a variety of services to the citizens of Escondido. The Coalition for Drug Free Escondido has partnered closely with the Escondido Police Department in its recent shift toward a community policing method; a systematic approach to reducing crime and substance abuse, and increasing safety in the community. The community has made great strides over the years to provide prevention and intervention services to youth and families that are at risk for gang membership and becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. And while those programs have been effective, the gang issue (still) contributes to a rise in violence, illicit drug use, and an overall feeling of being unsafe in the community; 2017 saw an increase of 12% in violent crime.
Escondido also has two public school districts. Escondido Union School District K-8 has more than 18,000 students and 23 schools. The Escondido Union High School District has more than 8,500 students with 4 comprehensive high schools and one continuation school. The Coalition has a great working relationship with both of the school districts. Operating under the Council-Manager form of government, Escondido is a full-service, general-law city with five council members elected by district. Escondido is historically politically conservative, pro-business (“no-new-regulations”) and openly anti-immigrant. For this reason and the documented increase in youth access to alcohol and drugs lead us to form a coalition; strategically working together to address these community concerns, and create population-level reductions with (youth) substance use. The city council makeup has shifted recently with members and a new mayor; relationships have been established in an effort to collaborate and raise awareness and advocate for prevention efforts and policies to aid in reducing youth access to and use of alcohol, marijuana, and e-cigarettes.