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City police receive grant to reduce downtown violence

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | MAY 05, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City police will use an expected $193,000 in federal grant money to purchase equipment and pay for overtime officers working to combat increasing violence in the community, authorities said.

A portion of the funding — which has not yet been approved — would be used to institute a Department Initiative for Violence Reduction, which would allocate money to pay for additional patrols aimed at reducing violence. The Iowa City police are currently spending $5,000 per month in overtime pay to place additional officers downtown on weekend nights, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said.

“We’re not in a situation where we can increase staffing,” said Iowa City police Capt. Rick Wyss. “But we’d like to put more officers on the street.”

Hargadine said in February, when it became apparent local police would be forced to slash $100,000 from the budget, that the force would need to maintain its current staff of 75 officers, though he would ideally like more.

The $192,831 was allocated as part of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. While funds are distributed annually, this year shows a marked increase in the amount of money allocated to Iowa City police. Last year, the department received $13,955.

The extra money is a part of the federal stimulus package, which was signed by President Obama on Feb. 17 and allocates $4 billion to law enforcement.

This is the first year Iowa City police are asking for money to pay overtime officers in response to an upsurge in the number of assaults downtown involving men, authorities said. The extra officers would benefit the entire city, they said.

“[The grant] provides us with additional resources we can direct for overtime usage,” Wyss said.

Police also hope a portion of the money can be used to purchase two new marked patrol cars, a major concern during initial budget cuts.

When a purchase for new patrol cars was cut from the budget, Hargadine said, the move would save money in the short run, but cost the department more in maintenance. Using grant money for new cars is the answer to the problem, he said.

The remainder of the money will be used for training equipment such as Simmunitions, which provides realistic firearm training because it hurts officers on impact.

Other equipment purchases will likely include protective clothing for crowd control and crime scene investigations equipment like cameras and computer equipment, Wyss said.

Though the money has been allocated, officials now must apply to receive the money. Federal officials will then approve or deny the local police requests.

Iowa City officials — who are compiling the application on behalf of North Liberty police, Coralville police, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office — said they aren’t sure when they will receive the funds.

“We’re at the mercy of the federal process there,” Hargadine said.

But officials agree, especially in light of recent budget cuts, the money will be appreciated.


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