Sgt. Alex Neicu, supervisor of Tracy Police Department’s special investigations unit, said officers confiscated 50 computers when they busted the Computer Crazy Internet Café, 1200 W. 11th St., on May 14 during a multiagency investigation of online gambling.
Neicu said the defendant in the case, Patricia Simmons, pleaded no contest to online gambling charges in October. Part of Simmons’ plea stipulated that the computers would be given to charity.
He said material confiscated in connection with an illegal activity — such as guns or drugs — is normally destroyed, but the police department wanted to do something different in this case.
“In this situation, obviously as a need to benefit the community and the kids, it was worth the effort to get the court order,” Neicu said.
The police will give the clubs 39 of the computers — a mix of Dell and Gateway machines — with monitors, keyboards and mice.
“They were fairly new computers when we seized them. It’s not a common occurrence for us to get equipment that we can donate to the community,” Neicu said.
The department had to wait until the case was completely finished, as the computers were evidence.
“We have had a long-standing work relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, and they were our first thought,” Neicu said.
Officers have removed the gambling software from the computers.
Robert Pane, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, said the 39 computers would be a welcome addition to the club’s technology available for children throughout the six club sites. Pane hadn’t seen the computers yet but knew he could put them to good use.
“It will be just a matter of time getting them ready for the kids. If they are better than the ones we have here, we cycle the old ones out,” Pane said. “We will sprinkle them throughout the program so as many kids can use them.”
The Tracy clubs are part of the national Boys and Girls Clubs NetSmart program, which teaches Internet safety and keyboard skills. Pane said the Tracy clubs add Microsoft Office training to the mix so that club members will get experience with a program they will likely use in the future.
“We will use this as an opportunity to get them more computer literate. If the kids are not getting access to computers, they are falling behind,” Pane said. “When they get more confident with computer skills, it trickles down to their schoolwork.”
Pane said 80 percent of the kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs programs come from low-income households, and many don’t have a computer in the home.
Pane said he will be able to get any software he needs for the computers from a Boys & Girls Clubs of America donations program.
His biggest challenge he said would be getting the computers ready for use. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy is looking for volunteers to help get the computers up and running and work on the technology programs Pane said. Anyone interested in help can contact Pane at 832-2582 ext 110.
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