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Federal grant can strengthen public safety in Federal Way

Federal Way is eligible for just over $211,000 in federal grant money slated for public safety.

The money is offered through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) and must be applied for. In total, $2 billion is up for grabs as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to a March 6 White House press release.

Federal Way is considering applying JAG toward technology-based law enforcement advances and programs, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. It will also consider partnering with regional departments to make use of the grant.

JAG may go toward state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, information systems for criminal justice, research and evaluation activities that improve or enhance law enforcement programs. The process for determining which jurisdictions are eligible for the assistance is based on a formula that considers population and violent crime statistics, according to the White House press release.

"By keeping police officers on the streets whose jobs were threatened by budget cuts, and ensuring states and municipalities have the tools and equipment necessary to fight crime, this money will simultaneously help jumpstart the American economy and protect our citizens," President Barack Obama said in a March 6 statement found at www.recovery.gov, the Web site established by the White House and Legislature to track the recovery act dollars as they are issued.

If Federal Way is awarded JAG, the grant likely will be used to initiate or enhance four technology-based law enforcement programs. JAG does not require the department to match funds.

"Our preliminary discussions have focused on technology," Schrock said.

Some of these were submitted as part of the 2009/2010 budget but did not make the cut:

• National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)

• Electronic ticketing

• Electronic traffic collision reporting

• Improvements and maintenance to police radios.

NIBRS

The state wishes to see local jurisdictions convert their summary-based reporting to a system called National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) before 2012. The system permits law enforcement agencies to more comprehensively categorize and report crime statistics.

As part of the traditional summary reporting, Federal Way police classify an index crime in one of eight categories. Incident-based reporting offers 22 categories of crime classification. The system will help police better track crime, identify crime patterns and document multiple offenses, among other things, Schrock said. It will also assist in establishing relationships between suspects and victims.

"It tends to be a little more accurate representation (of crime statistics)," Schrock said.

E-ticketing and traffic collision reporting

Streamlining the ticketing and collision reporting processes is another option for JAG funding.

Federal Way is contemplating purchasing software and printers to be used inside officers' vehicles. Instead of writing tickets, officers would use their in-vehicle laptops and a printer to issue tickets and collision reports. It would speed up the ticketing process for motorists. Items would automatically be submitted to the appropriate court and the police records department. Those involved in the incident would have quicker access to the reports.

"Our goal is to create an environment in (an officer's) vehicle that's like an office," Schrock said.

Police radios

JAG could also be used to enhance officers' communication.

Some parts of the city receive poor radio reception, Schrock said. Improving or replacing radio antennae, and updating officers' mobile and portable radios, is expected to solve this issue, she said. This would guarantee nearly 100 percent radio reception throughout the city, Schrock said.

Regional partnerships

King County is also eligible for $4,882,208. This money must be split between local jurisdictions as the county sees fit. Another option for allocating JAG is forming a partnership among regional grant recipients to work toward a larger project, Schrock said. However, only a little more than $1 million between regional jurisdictions would possibly be available.

"We don't want to rule out regional partners," Schrock said. "Those considerations are certainly on the table."

Federal Way has until May 18 to apply for its chunk of the JAG grant. If the funds are awarded, they will come as a one-time allocation in 2009, and the police department will have four years to spend the award, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

If applied locally, multiple programs could be initiated, Schrock said.

"I think we'll be able to fund multiple projects," she said.

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