In a recent announcement, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp revealed that the state will distribute over $83.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds as grants for 118 public safety projects across Georgia.
The aim of these grants is to bolster law enforcement staffing, support initiatives to reduce violent crime, invest in technology and equipment, and address personnel shortages stemming from the pandemic.
Kemp emphasized the significance of the grants in a statement following the decision. “Public safety has always been a top priority of my administration and will continue to be,” he said.
He further highlighted the need to provide resources for law enforcement agencies to combat surging crime.
“With the increase in violent crime seen in communities across the country, including here in our state, we’re sending reinforcements to keep hardworking Georgians and their neighborhoods safe,” the governor said. “From tackling staffing needs to deploying new equipment and technology, these funds are being invested so that our brave first responders have the resources they need to fight back against dangerous criminals.”
The funds for the qualified projects were sourced from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program established under the American Rescue Plan Act.
By utilizing these grants, departments hope to enhance their capabilities by investing in advanced technology, equipment and personnel to tackle the growing challenges of violence and staffing shortages.
Josh Crawford, director of criminal justice initiatives for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, applauded the state’s commitment to public safety.
“We commend Gov. Kemp and the legislature for continuing their commitment to public safety, especially in an environment where we continue to see high crime rates in cities across the state,” Crawford stated. “Ensuring safe communities requires involvement from all of us, including partnerships between state and local officials.”
Grants awarded range in size, with examples including $13,576 for the Paulding County Board of Commissioners to acquire a system aimed at preventing the use of stolen guns in violent crimes, as well as over $1.6 million to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Columbus Police Department, Dekalb County School District, Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Henry County Police Department for various initiatives.
Indeed, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department received the largest grant of any agency in Northeast Georgia.
The department said the funds will go toward employee recruitment and retention initiatives.
State Representative Mike Cameron expressed his appreciation for the $558,697 grant awarded to the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.
“The addition of the technology purchased through this grant will greatly enhance the department’s ability to keep the citizens of Walker County safe,” Cameron said.
Other notable grants include over $1 million awarded to the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office to hire additional deputies and jailers, and $62,700 granted to White County for the provision of body armor protection for sworn personnel.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Police Department obtained $79,310 to implement intelligence-led strategies for crime reduction, while the Danielsville Police Department secured $22,770 to support its Community Violence Department Reduction Program.
In addition, the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners received nearly $300,000 to purchase equipment and technology to train Baldwin County law enforcement officers.
The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office was also included in the grant, and said it plans to use the money to build a new five-acre training facility and gun range, as well as to purchase 150 Flock license plate reader (LPR) cameras. The sheriff’s office has never before had its own training center or gun range, instead having to borrow facilities from other agencies, which Major Brad King calls “a logistical nightmare.” “Without that grant money, all of this would still be a wish,” he told 13WMAZ News. “It’s going to be a game-changer for our department.”
The City of Gray was also a notable recipient, obtaining over $500,000 to install equipment in patrol vehicles.
“I am very excited for our communities to receive information about the grants that have been awarded to Baldwin, Butts, and the City of Gray for the grants for equipment, training, and other projects for law enforcement,” Senator Rick Williams said. “This shows the Governor’s commitment to fighting crime and helping law enforcement agencies protect our citizens and communities. And to continue to make Georgia a safer place to live and work.”
Furthermore, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in the central part of the state received two significant grants for $749,727 and $892,087 to go towards equipment and technology upgrades and establishing a K-9 division, respectively.
Nearby cities Dublin and Perry each received over $1 million to purchase multiple items, such as tasers, body cameras, patrol vehicle technology and 150 Flock cameras.
“There’s a device that goes on their gun holster and their Taser. If they draw their gun, their bodycam automatically comes on. If they draw their Taser, their bodycam automatically comes on. There’s no manual operation of it,” Chief Keith Moon explained.
“Now, with the Flock system, they can have it up in the car. They can get the notifications live in the vehicle. That’s just one of the systems we’re trying to give them access to,” Moon added.
Meanwhile, the City of Alamo received a sum of over $200,000 to fill vacancies.
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said his agency plans to use thei county’s $1.6 million grant to also purchase and install 150 Flock LPRs around the city to fight gun violence.
“When you put together the ShotSpotter, you put together the downtown cameras, and now you add the Flock cameras to that, we’re really moving very much forward in using technology to keep our community safer,” Davis said.
Several agencies across Georgia, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, were also awarded grants to improve their investigative capabilities and develop a statewide computer-aided dispatch and records management system.