DOVER — Delaware law enforcement agencies may soon see an infusion of money to assist with the increasing challenges of fighting crime here.
The $20 million boost would come through a one-time grant to be divvied up among agencies based on the number of uniformed officers they have. Each agency would receive at least $50,000.
The pending bill would create the Expanded Protection for Our Communities and Homes Grant Program, using money from the state’s General Fund. The Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security would distribute the funds.
State Rep. Mike Smith, a Pike Creek Valley Republican, authored the legislation, which is expected to be circulated among legislators for sponsorship and then filed, House Republican spokesman Joe Fulgham said.
The proposed bill is particularly focused on addressing dangerous roadway travel, local crime concerns, and recruiting and retaining officers, Mr. Fulgham said.
Each agency would have three years to utilize the funds. In that time, Rep. Smith said, “They can react based on what’s happening in their community, in their jurisdiction.”
The agencies would be required to report how the money was used each year, and Rep. Smith stressed the importance of fostering a transparent process. The information would be shared by legislators and the governor, and posted online. The grant would be a one-time program.
“We’ll know exactly where the dollars are going, how they were used and the impact they had after three years,” Rep. Smith said.
Any of the money not used at the end of three years will be deposited back into the state’s General Fund, Rep. Smith said.
“Any ongoing expenses incurred by the agencies in using these funds, like the hiring of new officers, would be their responsibility after the three years is up,” Rep. Smith said.
“This initiative is not intended to be ‘the solution’ as much as it is to give decision-makers a way to plan and implement solutions.”
The time to act is now, the lawmaker said. He described crime trends as on the rise and said, through the grant program, “we’re trying to make a difference.”
The money would go to 50 state, county, municipal and university law enforcement agencies, according to a news release. The amount of the lump sum disbursement would be based on the number of officers an agency has of July 1.
Curtailing roadway crashes and deadly incidents remains an ongoing concern for the Delaware Department of Transportation and Delaware Office of Highway Safety. There’s been a marked rise in roadway-related fatalities, which numbered 51 as of Tuesday. That is an increase of more than 50% from the same time period in 2021, according to numbers compiled by the Office of Highway Safety.
AAA reports that “traffic fatalities have surged, along with an increase in crashes involving impairment, speeding, red-light running, aggressiveness and non-seatbelt use” to levels not seen in a decade.
According to Rep. Smith, “Departments that are stretched to the limit just to hold the line on the commission of the most serious of felonies have been challenged to deal with other major concerns, like aggressive driving and property crimes.
“This bill would give them some additional resources to do more, while also addressing the underlying systemic problem of filling vacancies and expanding staffs.”