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APARTMENT-HOUSING CRIMES PROSECUTOR LOSES FUNDING TEAM LEADER GETS REASSIGNED.

Byline: Greg Botonis Staff Writer

LANCASTER - The man behind the city's innovative program to combat crime in rental housing is leaving at the end of this month because of a lack of funding, raising questions about who will head the program.

Deputy District Attorney David Berger will be transferring to the major- fraud division of the District Attorney's Office on May 28 since the grant for his position as the team leader of the Lancaster Community Appreciation Project has expired.

``We would have liked it if he could have stayed with us a while longer,'' Lancaster Assistant City Manager Dennis Davenport said. ``He had a lot of passion for the work he was doing. He did incredible work, and we liked the dedication he had to our community.''

Funded by a fee charged to owners of two or more rental units, the program includes a special unit of deputies assigned to patrol apartment complexes. Berger also gave training courses for landlords.

The District Attorney's Office has offered the assistance of two deputy district attorneys in Berger's place, but they will be available only to prosecute cases the apartment patrol develops and to lead some training classes. They won't lead inspections, looking for housing violators, or act as a liaison between landlords and the apartment patrol as Berger has done, officials said.

``They (the two deputy district attorneys) will in no way be exclusive to this program,'' said John Paul Bernardi, who heads the District Attorney's Office's community prosecutor program. ``We have told the city that we don't intend on walking away from the program and all the work that has been done, but (the program) won't have the full-time dedicated assistance of a deputy D.A.''

Bernardi said the District Attorney's Office must deal with severe county budget cuts and a hiring freeze, so there must be some reassignments of personnel.

Berger will be returning to the Antelope Valley to lead the next three landlord-training classes while being observed by the two new prosecutors who will do some work in the program.

The 18-month funding for Berger's position as a community prosecutor actually ended in October 2003, but District Attorney Steve Cooley extended Berger's stay in Lancaster until the end of May.

``I knew there had to be an end to it in the absence of any additional funding,'' Berger said. ``It's a disappointment but not a shock.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 2004
Words:398
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