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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today praised Gov. Gray Davis for restoring full funding for important programs that help local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies protect victims and witnesses and obtain convictions in violent crimes.
"No California governor has ever faced tougher budget decisions, but in protecting vital state and local public safety programs, Governor Davis definitely made the right call," Lockyer said. "His decision to continue funding for critical programs that provide first-rate forensic lab services, protect witnesses so they can testify against violent criminals and get justice for victims of domestic violence is essential to public safety, and greatly appreciated by all of us in law enforcement."
"Governor Davis has been a strong advocate for law enforcement and his difficult decisions today demonstrate the high priority he places on public safety," said Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas.
"We're grateful the governor has protected public safety even in the face of this severe budget crisis," said Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. "Restoration of witness protection money will save the lives of witnesses and victims in gang cases in Los Angeles."
In his revised budget plan, the governor has proposed restoring full funding to three programs identified by Lockyer in January as crucial to local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors:
Crime Labs: The Department of Justice's Richmond DNA lab and 10 regional crime labs have provided professional, expedient and free forensic services for the past 30 years to local law enforcement agencies from 46 of the states 58 counties. Located in Chico, Eureka, Freedom, Fresno, Redding, Ripon, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa, the labs collect, process and analyze DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, clandestine lab, blood samples and other crime scene evidence.
The governor's full funding of the program would save local law enforcement agencies an estimated $3.5 million in forensic fees during fiscal year 2003-2004, and $7.1 million in 2004-2005.
Spousal Abuse Prosecution Program: The Department of Justice provides grants to district attorneys to provide investigative, victim support and prosecutorial services in domestic violence cases. By having a trained team of professionals responsible for spousal abuse cases involved through the end of the trial, domestic violence victims are spared from being re-victimized by having to repeat their story to new investigators and prosecutors.
The governor's "May Revise" proposes $3.2 million for the program, which was the amount spent in 2002 to provide grants to 47 city and county prosecutors for legal, investigatory and counseling services in these difficult family violence cases.
California Witness Protection Program: The Department of Justice provides grants to local law enforcement to ensure the safety of victims and witnesses whose testimony is vital to obtain criminal convictions. Since the program began in 1998, it has assisted in the successful prosecution of more than 2,850 serious and violent offenders in 42 counties. More than 3,800 witnesses and family members have been relocated or otherwise protected.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002, the program provided grants of $2.8 million to protect 456 witnesses and 693 witness family members who were involved in 376 cases against 637 defendants. Of those cases, 280, or 74.5 percent, were gang-related.
"Protecting public safety programs at the local level is an important piece of the governor's overall budget plan," Lockyer said. "I commend the governor for crafting a proposal that is fiscally responsible and fair and which moves California a big step toward its goal of enacting a budget on time."