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A-K Valley police fail to capture federal COPS grants

| Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

Almost $1 billion in applications were filed seeking about $125 million in federal Community Oriented Policing Services grants.

Only three Pennsylvania departments were successful — none in the Alle-Kiski Valley and only one, New Sewickley, in Western Pennsylvania.

In the Alle-Kiski Valley, New Ken-sington, Tarentum, Allegheny Township and Kittanning applied to help their patrol forces. Though it failed to obtain a COPS grant, New Kensington is awaiting news about another grant application.

Allegheny Township police had sought $125,000 to place a school resource officer in Kiski Area High School, police Chief John Fontaine said.

The plan was to put a full-time officer in the school during the academic year and on regular patrol at other times.

“This would be more than someone walking the halls,” Fontaine said. “They would handle day-by-day issues and help in the school's criminal law, safe-driving classes and anti-drug education.

“Now it's back to square one. Our memorandum of understanding with the school called for using a federal grant. We would have to sit down and see where we go from there,” he said.

Kiski Area officials did not return calls for comment.

Apollo-Ridge, Plum, Leechburg and Fox Chapel Area are among local school districts that have school resource officers.The COPS grants are issued through the federal Department of Justice.

Pennsylvania State Police requested money to improve driver safety by reducing drunken-driving and drugged-driving wrecks by focusing on areas with a large number of the wrecks. According to the application, PSP applied for 25 troopers who could spend time in areas identified by a computer system that predicts where similar crimes will occur. The government said about 1,700 police agencies requested about $974,000 to add about 4,400 police jobs.

“We didn't get very far down on the list with the available money. The money goes pretty quickly,” said COPS spokesman Corey Ray.

“There were a lot of good applications that didn't get funded,” he said.

Last year, COPS gave extra points for hiring military veterans. This year, the emphasis was on school resource officers.

The government considered a number of factors, including applicants' crime rate for the past three years, local economy, poverty and unemployment rates, and if any community policy strategies were planned, he said.

The Department of Justice also did a balancing act, with at least one winning application going to each state or territory.

About 50 of the grantees used gun violence as the reason for the application.

About 20 of the grants went to police in California, nine in Florida, six in North Carolina, five each in Alabama and Arizona, four in Wyoming and two in Texas.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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