The U.S. Department of Justice announced Aug. 30 that it awarded the DeKalb County Police Department a $496,793 grant from its Child Sexual Predator Program (CSPP). These funds will be used to enhance the department’s ability to investigate child sex abuse and exploitation cases.
DeKalb’s police department is one of 20 law enforcement agencies nationwide that will receive a portion of the Justice Department’s $9.2 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to fight child sex abuse. Fulton County police will also receive grant funding totaling $331,241 for its child exploitation unit.
One of CSPP’s primary functions is to foster community policing by promoting partnerships among local police departments, federal law enforcement agencies and community stakeholders. DeKalb County Police Chief William O’Brien said that the community policing approach has become an integral part of his department’s efforts to protect DeKalb residents.
“When it comes to ensuring our children are safe, it is important that we strengthen relationships with all community partners, and I am grateful to COPS for supporting our agency in doing so,” he said.
DeKalb police spokeswoman Mekka Parish stated the department will not disburse the funds to the county’s municipal police agencies. Instead, it will use the money to purchase equipment, such as a mobile forensic processing unit and computer software to analyze evidence, which would enable the department to solve cases more efficiently and to uncover evidence that would contribute to successful prosecutions of child sexual predators.
At the same time, this new funding will improve the department’s ability to coordinate case information and to share digital media summaries and evidence with other agencies. It will also help cover overtime expenses for detectives, as well as provide specialized training and technical assistance.
“Public Safety is our number one priority in DeKalb County,” said DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis, “and thanks to this COPS grant, we can further our efforts to protect young people from the dangers of sexual predators.”
At a time of belt tightening and fiscal austerity, this type of funding may become less common, as Congress examines ways to cut federal spending. U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D – Ga.) and others in Congress are working to protect COPS from federal budget cuts.
Johnson, who voted in July to continue funding the program, said in an earlier statement, “At a time when states are struggling to balance their budgets, they need federal support to ensure they have the resources they need to keep their communities safe. COPS is vital to this equation.”
In 2009, the COPS office distributed $1 billion in grants to police departments to hire and rehire officers. Georgia’s law enforcement agencies received $31 million of the grant to pay the salaries of 184 police officers. DeKalb’s share was $3.1 million—used to hire 15 new officers.