Harrisburg April 21, 2016 Senate Democrats representing large and small cities across Pennsylvania stepped forward today to propose an aggressive crime prevention plan that would provide $3.2 million in grants for local police departments.
The Safe Streets Law Enforcement Grant Program would enable local officials from cities of all sizes to apply for grants covering one-time expenses for equipment, training, new public safety initiatives and police overtime.
The Safe Streets Law Enforcement Grant initiative is being offered by Sens. John Wozniak (D-Cambria/Bedford/Clearfield), John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia), Sean Wiley (D-Erie), Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry), and Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland).
Police departments struggle to find resources for equipment, training, safety initiatives and overtime, Wozniak said. This grant program would be a very useful way to direct much-needed funds for specific crime prevention initiatives.
In Wozniaks district, Johnstown would be eligible to apply for grant funding. Wozniak, who is active in local government issues, proposed the development of the Third Class City Caucus as a way to push measures helpful to smaller cities, including funding for public safety.
Crime fighting in urban areas regardless of the size of the city poses unique problems that have to be addressed, Sabatina said. This program provides a conduit for law enforcement to access funds to pay for necessary law enforcement tools.
Sabatinas 5th Senatorial District is located in Northeast Philadelphia. A former assistant district attorney, he has been a leader on police and law enforcement issues since he joined the General Assembly.
Safe Street Grants would be based on a citys population. First and second-class cities (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, respectively) could receive up to $150,000. Second-class A and third-class cities with populations between 40,000 and 120,000 (Erie, Harrisburg, etc.) are eligible for $100,000 grants.
Third-class cities with a population ranging from 16,000 to 40,000 residents (Johnstown, McKeesport, for example) could seek $75,000 under the program. Cities with populations from 10,000 to 15,999, and those with less than 10,000 citizens would be eligible for grants of $50,000 or $25,000, respectively.
Cities in Pennsylvania face stiff fiscal challenges and need financial help in many areas, Wiley said. Earmarking grant dollars for specific purposes will help police combat crime, improve public safety and save lives.
Wiley has been heavily involved in assisting Erie area police departments. He helped access funding for a K-9 unit based at Mercyhurst University that is trained in bomb detection. The unit is available to the Erie Bureau of Police as well as other local departments. Under the Safe Streets Law Enforcement Grant Program, Erie would be eligible for a $100,000 grant.
The program would be administered through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Public safety is a top priority of local government, Teplitz said. The key aspect of the Safe Streets Law Enforcement Grant Program is that it is tailored to help law enforcement from cities of all sizes.
Teplitz represents Harrisburg, which would be eligible for $100,000 in grant funding under the program. He helped develop a bipartisan municipal debt reform package (Senate Bills 340-344) to enhance state oversight of municipal financial deals and prevent fiscal catastrophes that have embroiled Harrisburg and other municipalities.
As Democratic chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee and a leader on addressing fiscal issues associated with third-class cities, Teplitz believes that a renewed focus on providing law enforcement with the resources and tools to combat crime will pay dividends for generations to come.
Brewster, who represents a number of eligible cities (McKeesport, Duquesne, Clairton, New Kensington, Arnold and Lower Burrell), said the Safe Streets Law Enforcement Grant Program is an excellent approach that would fill a local need.
Small cites are cash-strapped and often find it difficult to pay expenses, Brewster said. This grant program offers smaller urban areas which do not have resources readily available a way to fund law enforcement and protect citizens.
Brewster served as the mayor of McKeesport and was a member of council, including service as council president. He has been a strong proponent of using new technology to fight crime, including the use of body cameras for police officers.
According to the bills sponsors, there are 57 cities that could access grant funding. The grant funding could not be used to hire new officers or cover personnel or benefit costs. Overtime cost is an eligible expense.
Municipalities who use Pennsylvania State Troopers for local patrol and law enforcement would be ineligible.