Stanislaus County missed a chance to receive money from a new anti-gang initiative created by the governor because of a failure to submit an application that took months to prepare, local officials said last week.
Top law enforcement officers said they had been unaware the proposal never was submitted and took full responsibility for the missed opportunity.
"I should have been more on top of this," said Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden. "I thought we had a grant application in. There just wasn't the information flow that I needed, and that's my responsibility."
The mix-up stemmed from the fact that none of the cities in Stanislaus County would take financial responsibility to manage the grant. Wasden said he believed the application could be submitted without specifying the responsible agency, also known as the fiduciary.
"I should have pressed the issue. I got at least one e-mail that said we had been unable to identify a fiduciary. I thought we could go ahead and apply without it," he said.
He said he learned early last week the application had not been submitted and that it would have needed a fiduciary to turn it in. Had he known this, he said, "I would have said, 'Put down Modesto and I'll arm wrestle my finance department.' "
On Monday, Gov. Schwarzenegger's office announced that 18 cities and 13 community organizations would receive $16.5 million for gang prevention and intervention, as well as job training and education programs for youth at risk of joining gangs.
Schwarzenegger identified Stanislaus County last May as a "High Intensity Gang Area" because of the number of gang- related homicides per resident.
Gang membership in the county has increased during the past five years, especially within Latino gangs, according to a Mo- desto Police presentation from November about the importance of applying for the grant.
Local law enforcement agencies have documented 49 gangs and nearly 4,000 gang members and associates, though some experts say that number could be as high as 7,000. About 85 percent of gang members are La- tino.
Stanislaus was one of two counties in the San Joaquin Valley that failed to receive state grant money aimed at combating the growth of gangs. An application from Kings County was unsuccessful.
Cities and organizations in Fresno County will receive $1,510,880; Merced County, $494,996; and a Stockton group, $400,000.
First year for grants
This is the first year for payouts from the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention initiative, said Paul Seave, the state gang policy director. The effort was announced last May.
Planning for the grant application in Stanislaus County took place through late fall and early winter, Wasden said.
"In December, we were doing just a ton of the work," he said.
Two grant applications were prepared by agencies in Stanislaus County. Both applications referred to a single campaign, called Sin Colores (Without Colors). The campaign was aimed at discouraging youth from joining gangs and teaching parents how to watch for danger signs.
The law enforcement application was supposed to come from the Central Valley Gang Impact Taskforce, an alliance of local, federal and state agencies that exchange intelligence and keep tabs on gang members on parole or probation. Modesto Police Sgt. Rick Armendariz supervises the alliance. This proposal outlined staffing needs, information analysis resources and money for overtime related to enforcement, Wasden said. It never was submitted.
The other application, turned in by the Hispanic Leadership Council, described the creation of a film, comic book and grass-roots community collaboration that would target Latino families.
"We really felt it was a solid grant application," said one of the proposal's creators, Virginia Madueño, a city councilwoman in Riverbank.
"One of the core issues was how do we get parents to not only get more knowledge but to get involved? It's a community-based approach," she said.
Seave, the gang policy director, could not talk about why the HLC application was not approved, but he stressed that the process was competitive. Of 46 cities that applied, 18 were funded. Of 94 community organizations, just 13 were selected.
Seave said the governor's proposed budget for next year includes the same amount of money for gang reduction, so cities and agencies will be able to apply again for state assistance.
Though the HLC proposal did not receive funding this time around, Madueño said, she will work with organizers and law enforcement leaders to find money for the campaign.
"I can tell you we're not going to quit," she said. "We will get this campaign up and running."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2235.