Local police receive huge federal grants

July 28, 2009 7:18:19 PM PDT
Many Bay Area cities are getting federal money for public safety.

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The $19.7 million in stimulus money Oakland got for its police Tuesday was the most of any city in California.

  • San Francisco received $16.5 million
  • Richmond received $3.8 million
  • Vallejo and Antioch received more than $2 million apiece
  • Hayward received $4 million
  • Gilroy received $1.1 million
  • Santa Cruz received $1.9 million

More than 7,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide asked for $8 billion in funding. Only $1 billion was available, so there was fierce competition. The Justice Department considered crime levels, community policing strategies, unemployment rates, and even foreclosure numbers. The winners were announced Tuesday.

There are 40 sworn officers serving the city of East Palo Alto. The police chief says for an agency that size, the federal money is significant. The department will receive nearly $800,000.

"Obviously with the economic recession and most recently with the passing of the state's budget, and the borrowing from local governments, we were looking at potential layoffs," said Chief Ronald Davis. "So this means I won't have to layoff two officers."

In the early 1990s, East Palo Alto was known as the murder capitol of the country; one year recording 42 homicides. That reputation has changed, but a cab driver's killing earlier this month and a multi-million dollar heroin bust last week, prove crime remains a problem.

Davis believes the Justice Department considered all that when awarding the grant.

"I think they recognized between the progress we're making, the short staff, the potential layoffs, and the continued fighting against crime, made us a viable candidate," said Davis.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the $1 billion worth of grants. The money must be used to hire or retain officers, and will pay their salaries and benefits for three years.

"We know the incredible strain this recession has put on police departments," said Biden.

The East Bay city of Emeryville is better known for IKEA than crime. Tuesday the police chief let his officers know the department was awarded more than $900,000.

"We'll be able to unfreeze two frozen positions and hire those positions back," said Chief Ken James.

The top cop says they have not increased their ranks since the 90s, but since then their population has grown by at least one-third, and crime has also gone up.

"For 2009 we had over 1,400 part one crimes," said James. "Fortunately, the majority of those part one crimes are a result of the retail development we've had and they are petty theft crimes."

Not everyone who requested money received it. San Jose's police department applied for nearly $9 million for 25 officers, but got nothing.

LINK: Agencies that received funding

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