County seeking grant for sheriff

Will ask feds for $875,000 boost

Mesa County wants the U.S. Department of Justice to kick $875,000 into a program that in less than two months already has shown signs of discouraging crime and heartening frustrated neighbors.

The County Commission on Monday voted unanimously to submit a grant application seeking funding for three years. The application is based on the Sheriff’s Office’s successful use of school-resource officers this summer to reach out to crime-ridden areas and victims with its new Crime Reduction Unit.

Typically, school-resource officers are rotated into patrol duties over the summer. But this summer, Capt. Todd Rowell, patrol commander for the Sheriff’s Office, assigned them instead to work in areas where there were classic indicators of problems.

One, for instance, was sent to work in the area of a home where deputies had been called 66 times in recent years. Another was a house on D Road where the SWAT team had been called three times.

The idea of the Crime Reduction Unit was to learn what kinds of things were going on in the neighborhood, who was living in the residences and other information that could be of use in discouraging crime, Rowell said.

“We’re trying to spend a little more time to fully understand what the problem is,” Rowell said.

Results from the experiment were almost immediately encouraging.

“So far this unit has seen many successes in a short amount of time,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote in its grant application. “The initial evaluation indicates the school resource officers in their temporary assignment are beginning to restore a quality life to the residents who have had a problem person or problem property in their neighborhood. This team has received comments from our citizens indicating they stopped calling the police because nothing was being done.”

Many of those who had voiced frustration with law enforcement told deputies they were more likely to call for help, the application said.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for seven positions to replace the four school resource officers who will return to their regular duties in the fall.

Under the terms of the grant, the Department of Justice would pay 64 percent of the officers’ salaries for the three years and after that, the costs would be borne alone by the county.

The sheriff’s and Mesa County District Attorney’s offices are preparing to ask voters in November for a 0.37 percent sales tax exclusively for law enforcement.

The two offices hope to raise about $7.1 million. Some of that money is to be used in efforts to prevent crime.

If the grant application is successful, the Sheriff’s Office could receive grant funding by November.

It made no sense to wait on the outcome of the tax question before applying for the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing grant, Rowell said. “We don’t want to see neighborhoods worsen because we didn’t deal with identified issues,” he said.


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