SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian declared Monday that "protecting our citizens from violence" should be government's No. 1 priority and told the second annual Governor's Training Conference on Crime Victims here that it will take a united effort to combat "the sickness of violence."
The three-day conference is being attended by government officials and citizen activists representing scores of anti-crime and victim-assistance groups throughout the state.
Deukmejian, in what probably will be one of the major themes of his reelection campaign next year, was introduced as "the leading advocate for crime victims in our state." In his speech, the governor stressed efforts he is making to help people injured by lawbreakers.
Since he took office in 1983, he said, the state has dispensed more than $31 million from the Victims' Restitution Fund. Aid has gone to nearly 25,000 victims.
The governor also sought support for a package of bills he is backing to aid victims of crimes. He is asking the Legislature to appropriate $1.5 million to fund prosecutors who would specialize in handling child abuse cases and another $1.8 million to set up a statewide program specifically to assist victims of domestic violence.
Speaking to about 500 people attending the conference, Deukmejian called for a society "where we can start to take the locks, bars and chains off of our homes, rather than putting more of them on."
He again singled out the state Supreme Court, which he has criticized for delaying implementation of the death penalty under a capital punishment law re-enacted in California in 1977.
"I believe the California Supreme Court should give great deference to the wishes of our people and implement capital punishment now. As far as I'm concerned, if the death penalty will save the life of just one innocent person, if it will just save one victim, then it's a punishment that we must have in our state," he said.