06/03/09 — State grants helping towns combat crime

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State grants helping towns combat crime

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 3, 2009 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- Getting about $20,000 in grant funding may not seem like much, but the the town's police chief says it's been enough to "save Fremont" from roving gangs and rampant street drug dealers.

Starting about three years ago, ex-Highway Patrol officer and current Chief Ron Rawlings asked for money under a program he called "Clean Sweep."

"The idea, I guess, was to sweep the drug dealers away. That was my goal in the first grant, and it's been working for the last three years.

"I believe it has been a lifesaver for this community. I definitely get the elderly citizens of the community telling me all the time that they don't hear gunshots (any) more, that they can walk without having to make their way through a crowd of drug dealers," the chief said.

This year's program, called Clean Sweep III, is one of five Wayne County-based programs getting funding from the Governor's Crime Commission.

Those five programs are getting nearly $1 million from a total of $62 million in grants given to 315 programs in 86 counties.

In Fremont's case, the funding has helped pay for part-time police help, to replace aging weapons and other vital police expenses, the chief said.

And another nearby Wayne County community seems to be following Fremont's lead.

In Pikeville, like Fremont in previous years, Crime Commission funding will go for electroshock weapons, commonly known as "Tasers" after a company that makes them.

A sergeant there confirmed that Pikeville would be receiving three of the shock weapons, along with a computer and money for more part-time personnel.

Pikeville Police Chief Pascal Tucker was unavailable to comment for this story.

Rawlings said that in Fremont, the funding helped replace aging weapons -- that up until last year, Fremont officers were using 20- to 30-year-old .22-caliber revolvers, he said.

"With the grant money last year, we were able to purchase .45-caliber M&P (military and police) service weapons," Rawlings said. "That's the same weapon that military police are carrying now."

Rawlings said such purchases are about "keeping up" with those who commit crimes, a group that also continuously upgrades its equipment.

"It really does cost money to combat crime," Rawlings said. "The criminals are spending money to try to get away from you. We needed to upgrade, we've got to keep working just like they keep working."

And he said, "With the budget pinch, if you can get any money at all, you've got to be thankful for it."

This year, the chief said, the money may go toward replacing old speed-detection radars he originally purchased from his old employer, the state Highway Patrol.

Another recipient of grant funding was the local group ADLA, Inc., which stands for A lot of Direction, Love & Affection.

Executive Director Danny King said that a total of about $584,000, over two years, would be split up between the Sheriff's Office, Wayne Community College, the Goldsboro Housing Authority, Spirit Field Ministry on East Ash Street and Abundant Grace Ministry of Dudley.

"We are the facilitators," King said in explanation. "We were not naive enough to think we could do it by ourselves."

The Governor's Crime Commission gave ADLA, Inc. more than any other local group in its grant awards, according to a news release from the governor's office.

ADLA will also use a total grant of about $215,000, over two years, to support a culinary arts program.

The program teams up with about 10 area restaurants, whose names have not yet been disclosed, to provide a direct link between jobs and the program's participants.