Hopes were high and promises were big last month when federal officials announced that $1 million would be poured into a Santa Ana neighborhood as part of a 16-city anti-crime, anti-poverty program.
Within a month, the neighborhood would begin seeing increased police patrols, city-code action and graffiti-removal crews, federal officials predicted at a news conference in early April.
But Santa Ana Police Lt. Bob Helton said Friday that city officials are still waiting for the money and are hoping that their share does not get pared down as other cities begin lobbying to participate in the program.
"We still have the plan, and we still want to implement it, but we are still waiting," Helton said.
The program, Operation Weed and Seed program, was mentioned Friday by President Bush as he spoke of rebuilding Los Angeles' neighborhoods demolished by last week's rioting.
Ironically, an official in the U.S. attorney's office said Friday that Los Angeles was bypassed earlier for the program in favor of Santa Ana because federal authorities believed that the pilot project stood a better chance of succeeding in the smaller city.
"Santa Ana was a good place to do it because of the chances of success," said Edward R. McGah, Jr., a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. "If you are successful, that means the program will go forward. If you are not, that means the project may not continue going down the road."
Los Angeles officials were aware of the project in advance of the funding decision being made, he added.
Through the combined efforts of local and federal law enforcement agencies, neighborhood residents and businesses, the program is designed to eradicate violent crime, drug use and gang activity in neighborhoods.
The targeted sites are then "seeded" with anti-crime and drug-prevention programs, as well as housing loans, job training and other social services to keep a lid on criminal activity.
During the April 6 news conference announcing the program, Acting U.S. Atty. Terree A. Bowers said the orchestrated assault on crime was intended to "really go and save a neighborhood."
Although McGah could not comment on the Administration's renewed attention on the program in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, he said that any funds dedicated to Los Angeles would not be at the expense of other cities that already have been promised federal funds.
"The money will remain approximately the same," McGah said of the $1-million commitment to Santa Ana.
He conceded that the expectation to have the money in Santa Ana's hands by early May "were probably overly optimistic," but federal officials now hope to have the program underway by the end of June.
The grant was delayed, McGah explained, because U.S. Department of Justice officials in Washington wanted further technical clarification on how the money would be spent.
"We are just sitting here, kind of in limbo," Helton said.
Helton said Santa Ana's plans include the addition of five police officers and one sergeant who would be assigned only to the "weed and seed" neighborhood.
Another facet of the city's proposal, Helton said, is the expansion of the DARE program in the schools within the targeted neighborhood, bounded by 1st Street on the north, Sullivan Street on the west, McFadden Avenue on the south and Raitt Street on the east.
He added that he was under the impression that Santa Ana's share could be cut back slightly because of interest in the program from other cities, and if that happened, city officials would have to reevaluate their plan.
At the time the city submitted its grant application in mid-March, the funding was expected to be $1.25 million.
The first phase of the program--"weeding" out crime--is expected to take at least one year.
In addition to the federal grant, city officials have also committed $25 million in local revenues to improve sidewalks, curbs and gutters and other city facilities in the same neighborhood.