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Dole Campaigns Against Crime in California Visit

May 30, 1996|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Taking his California campaign from San Diego to Sacramento, Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole hammered away at his anti-crime message Wednesday, saying that his candidacy is in part about "taking back America" from violent criminals, young and old.

Cheered on by California's top Republican leaders, Dole also made a spirited pitch for welfare reform, saying there is "no better crime prevention program" than a revamped system that emphasizes family values and the work ethic.

"We need to teach our children responsibility and self-discipline and integrity, honesty," Dole told about 300 people gathered in Redondo Beach's Perry Park, where he was flanked by police officers and dozens of appreciative boys and girls in their baseball uniforms.

"Why not try work and discipline and duty and personal responsibility for a change?"

Dole's campaign chose Perry Park because the area as recently as a year ago was a hangout for young criminals, according to neighborhood residents. Community activists working with local police won a court order to keep alleged gang members from congregating in the park.

"This is the spirit I want to see across America. They made it work!" Dole said.

Part of making the effort work, however, according to local officials, was federal aid from a program that Dole opposed--President Clinton's proposal for the federal government to help pay for additional local police officers.

Under the 1994 anti-crime bill--which Dole voted against because, an aide said Wednesday, it contained "$5 billion of wasteful social spending"--Redondo Beach added two community police officers. One of those officers is assigned to the area that includes Perry Park--doubling the size of the community police unit for the city of 63,000 people.

The grant of $150,000 covers a portion of each officer's salary for three years, with the city making up the difference in salary and benefits and agreeing to keep the added personnel beyond the life of the grant, said Redondo Beach Police Chief Mel Nichols.

The federal government awarded the city a third grant of $130,000, which was to be used to hire five additional civilian employees, but Nichols said the city could not take the money because it is unable to match those funds from local coffers. Republican leaders have criticized that matching requirement, saying it is a major flaw in the police-aid program, which Clinton originally claimed would add 100,000 new police officers to the streets.

Dole has advocated eliminating the police program and replacing it with a smaller block grant that would combine several existing federal aid programs for crime prevention and law enforcement. Along with other members of the Republican leadership, Dole has argued that a block grant would give local communities more flexibility in how to spend their money even though the total aid would be less.

While anti-crime efforts were his theme for the day, Dole showed some ambivalence even as he called for tougher punishments for juveniles.

"Let's face it," he said. "Some children never have a chance in America. Some children are never hugged or never touched after their birth. They are just sort of sent out there. Nobody cares. Nobody looks after them.

"It's not with a great deal of enthusiasm that we talk about locking up children," Dole added. But, he said, "we have a problem in America . . . and we must face up to that problem."

One way of preventing crime, he argued, is to reform welfare. And he mocked Clinton for having promised to "end welfare as we know it" as a candidate in 1992, only to twice veto welfare reform bills proposed by the congressional GOP leadership.

"We're going to end him as we know it!" Dole said.

Under the GOP's welfare reform agenda, Dole said, "if they [recipients] are able-bodied, they are going to work."

"We've discovered that work does work," he said.

After his 15-minute speech at the park, Dole spent more than twice that time greeting residents, signing autographs and posing for snapshots.

Later in the day, Dole visited San Diego, where he held a round-table discussion on crime with a group of community leaders at a center in a low-income part of the city and accused Clinton of being an election year convert to the battle against drugs.

"When I am president, there are going to be two wars declared: a war on illegal immigration and a war on drugs," Dole promised.

During a brief speech, Dole also criticized a policy under which federal prosecutors in San Diego deport some Mexican nationals caught crossing the border with drugs in their cars and deprive them of border crossing documents rather than prosecute them.

"I say it should stop. They should be prosecuted. They should be prosecuted," Dole said. Under the existing policy, "if you are a noncitizen, you get better treatment than a citizen of the United States and I think that's deplorable. I don't understand that."

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