Gov. Davis plays Santa to police departments

By Matthew B. Stannard, Staff Writer, Argus 4/23/00

Christmas came early this year for hundreds of California law enforcement agencies when Gov. Gray Davis played Santa with $30 million in crime-fighting technology grants.

The one-time grants will be shared by 271 state law enforcement agencies, and can be used for just about any kind of anti-crime gadgetry, from computer hardware to video equipment. The grants will be available on May 1.

"Law enforcement officers deserve the most up-to-date crime-fighting technology," Davis said in a press release announcing the grants. "This $30 million grant will go a long way toward ensuring that our officers have all the equipment they need."

Grant money was doled out to cities that applied based on population and 1998 crime rates, the governor's office said. That meant Los Angeles and San Diego gobbled up the lion's share of the cash, receiving $7.4 million altogether.

But local agencies weren't left penniless. Oakland police will receive $468,640, one of the larger grants in the state, equivalent to that received by San Francisco and other big cities.

The money will be spent on infrared radar for the city's helicopter unit, said Oakland Sgt. Dave Walsh. It also will pay for new firearms and DNA analysis equipment in the department's crime lab, which is still smarting from the March defeat of Proposition 15, a $220 million crime lab bond act. The grant won't pay for the new building that Prop. 15 would have allowed, lab director Mary Gibbons said -- but it helps.

In San Mateo County, Sheriff's Department officials said they will spend their $80,000 piece of the pie on a pilot program putting wireless modems in patrol cars already equipped with laptop computers.

"The goal is to hook up these laptops in a wireless fashion, so we can access criminal history information, wants and warrants," said Undersheriff Greg Munks. "They'll be able to be more effective in terms of finding stolen vehicles, wanted people, things like that."

Manteca police are applying their $65,000 to one of their biggest local problems, said Chief Charles Halford: methamphetamine sales and manufacture.

The state grant money will pay for night vision equipment allowing police to track cranksters during their nocturnal activities, he said.

"(The grant) gives us the ability to buy things we could not ordinarily buy with the funding that's available locally," Halford said.

Other local agencies receiving grants include: Alameda County Sheriff's Department, $200,000; Alameda Police, $80,000; Berkeley Police, $115,550; Daly City Police, $115,550; Emeryville Police, $30,000; Foster City Police, $45,000; Fremont Police, $200,000; Hayward Police, $115,550; Menlo Park Police, $45,000; Redwood City Police, $80,000; San Mateo Police, $115,550; Tracy Police, $65,000; and San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, $200,000.

And there may be more on the way. Davis has proposed $75 million in identical grants next year, plus $25 million in school safety and juvenile justice grants. That proposal is still pending.


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