Grant strengthens police force

By Dave Gomez

The city of DeKalb will receive a federal grant to add three more police officers to their roster, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, announced earlier this month.

The $225,000 grant would bring the size of DeKalb Police Department to 60 officers.

“In a community like ours, the grants are quite beneficial,” said DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen.

The grant comes as part of the Justice Department’s COPS Universal Hiring Program, which recently announced $40.1 million in grants to hire 535 new officers nationwide.

The officers will assist in improving homeland security and community policing, Hastert said.

“This investment in public safety will make a substantial difference in our communities,” Hastert said in a prepared statement. “These dollars will allow our departments to bolster their forces and put additional officers where they belong – on the streets, protecting the public.”

Elgin received $750,000 to add 10 officers.

The DeKalb City Council approved the application for the grant in 2002.

“For the Justice Department to be in the position to help us do this is a positive for us,” said DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow. “And [it’s] a program I would certainly encourage the council to pursue.”

The grant will last three years and covers 75 percent of the officers’ total salaries and benefits during the first year. After the first year, the grant covers 50 percent and 25 percent the third year, Sparrow said. The city will then assume the full cost.

As DeKalb adjusts to its growth and attempts to draw in more retail businesses, sales taxes will strengthen the city budget – which in turn will provide funding for police services, Sparrow said.

“It certainly will have an impact in the sense [that] any city that’s growing [needs] those types of employees,” Sparrow said.

While crime in DeKalb is considerably lower compared to the rest of the state, the growing population could see higher crime rates, he said.

However, population size is only one of many factors for an increase in crime, he said.

“I don’t really see that happening in DeKalb in the near future, “ Sparrow said. “I see us as a safe and low-crime area.”

Feithen said the addition will be significant and comes at a time when the department needs them the most.

The expanding community in DeKalb brings with it both good and bad side effects, Feithen said. With a growing commercial area, the number of retail thefts has required more officers to respond.

As the department got busier, it has had to deal with more serious and more time-consuming situations, including national security.

“We receive intel information from the FBI and Homeland Security,” Feithen said. “We are also a member of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.”

The organizations are part of a statewide effort to prevent and respond to events such as terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.