Wife beaters, rapists and stalkers are the target of a new unit in the Tulare County District Attorney's Office.
Last week, District Attorney Tim Ward announced the creation of the "Enhanced Violence Against Women Prosecution Unit."
Three deputy district attorneys will exclusively prosecute cases involving domestic violence, he said.
"Three attorneys for the first time will be working side by side" on such cases, he said.
One prosecutor will work on homicides involving domestic violence. Currently, 11 murder cases — about 20% of the homicide caseload — resulted from domestic violence, Ward said.
A second prosecutor will target rape, sex assault and felony stalking cases, and the third will tackle the rest.
Ward, appointed to the job last year, said he favors "vertical" prosecutions in which a single attorney follows the case from filing to sentencing. This means that victims "are going to have to tell your story only one time," he said.
The beefed-up unit is needed because domestic violence causes trauma to victims, he said.
"One in four women are victims of domestic violence," Ward said. "One in 10 children are going to see an instance of domestic abuse in the home."
The unit is being funded by a federal Department of Justice grant and a budget increase from the county Board of Supervisors that unfroze two deputy district attorney positions. One position went to the new unit, he said.
#SOCIALBUS: Visalia Transit, the city's bus system, is experimenting with free Wi-Fi on a bus.
The bus is easy to spot because it has a large #SocialBus logo wrap on the outside. The bus will be used on the No. 1 route from downtown to Mooney Boulevard and the Government Plaza.
The SocialBus Wi-Fi, which can connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet, uses Verizon's 4G network.
The system is in beta testing for a year, said transit manager Monty Cox. If it catches on, other buses could get equipped, he said. Visalia may be the first bus system in the Valley to try free Wi-Fi.
Fresno Area Express is considering Wi-Fi for the planned Bus Rapid Transit, said transit planning manager John Downs.
CHALLENGER: Sheriff Bill Wittman will have at least one challenger when he seeks re-election next year — someone he knows well.
David Whaley, a former undersheriff who retired four years ago, said he is running for Tulare County sheriff in 2014. Whaley has a Facebook page and a booth at the Tulare County Fair that ends today.
He said he decided to run against his old boss because "I think we need new leadership."
Whaley said he started as a cadet at age 18 and worked all divisions. "I grew up there," he said. "I love the department."
Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee. His column runs Sunday. He can be reached at (559) 441-6104, firstname.lastname@example.org or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.