Valley to get $1m for help fighting gangs

The killing this summer of a Fresno woman in front of her children by an alleged gang member never should have happened, and should never be forgotten, Assembly Member Juan Arambula said Friday in announcing more state funding for gang prevention and intervention in the central Valley.

Arambula met Friday with more than 18 different law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations and local government officials in downtown Fresno's State Building to discuss $9.5 million in new grant money available from the state to fight gangs.

About $1 million of the funds are earmarked for the central Valley.

"It's important that our local people be the first in line to receive funding," said Arambula, D-Fresno. The selection process will be highly competitive, he said.

In noting the need for more funds to fight gangs, Arambula highlighted the case of Evijeni Mesa Perez, 29, who was shot to death in August during a robbery a few blocks from her home in southwest Fresno.

Her pregnant cousin was wounded. The shooting was witnessed by Perez's 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

A suspect, Tyrone Cowan, 20, a resident of the neighborhood and alleged member of the Dogpound gang, was arrested a few hours later and is being held in the Fresno County Jail.

He has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

Arambula said the state has allocated the $9.5 million from Gov. Schwarzenegger's Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Initiative to help law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations and local governments combat gang violence.

In a two-hour roundtable meeting, Arambula discussed how agencies could apply for a share of the funds.

Kirby Everhart, public safety branch chief from the Office of Emergency Services in Sacramento, said grant applications will start being accepted before the end of the month and that he hopes his office will start making distributions by January.

Arambula, whose district covers Fresno County and parts of Tulare County, said it's important for the local communities not to wait to submit their grant applications.

Preference will be given to applicants who incorporate regional approaches to anti-gang activities, Everhart said. No grant will exceed $500,000, he said, and at least two grants will be awarded to cities with populations of 200,000 or less.

Each grant will require 100% in matching funds from the applicants, Everhart said.

Fresno Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster said his department would welcome additional funds.