Anti-crime efforts get a federal boost

Funding: A law enforcement grant offers local agencies the means to jump-start their programs.

September 09, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz | By Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Police Department and other groups will share $148,004 next month when a local law enforcement advisory board divides a federal grant.

Most of the money comes from the U.S. Department of Justice, which distributes the funds to local jurisdictions based on the number of violent offenses reported the previous year. This year, the Department of Justice awarded Howard County $133,204.

Local jurisdictions must agree to contribute at least an additional 10 percent. Howard County added $14,800 this year.

"It's always good to see some money flowing to deserving crime programs and initiatives," said Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McClendon, who has served on the advisory board since the program began in 1995. "But we're relatively limited in what we can do with such a small pot of money."

Howard's slice of the grant pie is smaller than those of some neighboring jurisdictions. The Justice Department granted Baltimore City $4.4 million this year, Baltimore County $1.7 million and Anne Arundel County $413,800.

The amounts vary because of the number of Part I offenses, or violent crimes tallied in each jurisdiction's FBI uniform crime reports.

"One year, Baltimore was able to cover a helicopter with their grant money," said Tami Bulla, manager of research and planning for Howard County police. "And for a second there, we were a little jealous. But then we realized that we just don't have their level of crime - which is good, of course."

The amount of grant money made available to Howard County has slightly, but steadily, declined during the past four years.

Part I offenses - which include murder, theft, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft and rape - peaked in Howard County at 9,239 in 1997, declined to 7,676 in 1998, and have remained at about that level since then.

The county's biggest Justice Department grant - $158,138 - came in 1998. In 1999, Howard was awarded $153,899. The total last year was $136,458.

The law enforcement advisory board is to meet Oct. 4 to divide the money into block grants for individual agencies and organizations. Those recommendations will be sent to County Executive James N. Robey for approval. Applicants could have their money by mid-October, officials said.

Applicants' proposals must fall into one of seven categories to be eligible for a grant. The categories cover activities including crime prevention programs, drug courts and security measures in and around schools.

"This is a pot of money that is not just for criminal justice agencies," McClendon said. The program has "been able to reach out to community organizations and schools to jump-start their crime initiatives," she said.

One of the seven categories is meant for police departments. Money is provided for hiring, training and paying overtime to officers, or buying equipment and updating technology.

Traditionally, police departments have been awarded the bulk of the grant money. Last year, Howard's police force received $111,006 of the total $151,620 grant. The money was used for initiatives including enforcement of alcohol laws, purchase of wiretapping technology and recruiting.

Howard County public schools received $15,170.

"A lot of these programs wouldn't happen without this grant money," Bulla said.

Grant applications are due at police headquarters, 3410 Courthouse Drive, by 4 p.m. Friday.

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