Grant from DOJ helps Washington fight crime|Funding provides city tools to target gangs, illegal drug activities

Published 8:11 pm Sunday, September 27, 2009

Contributing Editor

A $191,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department will help the Washington Police Department further its efforts to fight gang and illegal drug activities in the city.
The money will allow the department to dedicate an investigator to follow up on intelligence and information collected by the department as a result of Project Next Step, which has been in place for two years, according to a press release issued by the city.
“The Department of Justice grant will also provide funds to purchase and deploy advanced technology to gather criminal activity intelligence and to share the data with other law enforcement agencies,” reads the release.
“It is going to allow us to take Project Next Step and add to it the ability to investigate, prosecute and prevent gang-related activity,” said Mick Reed, chief of the department, in a brief interview. “We are trying to stay ahead of the curve. The gang issue is a concern in all communities. This is our effort to stay ahead of the curve in our community.”
Reed said the investigator’s position will be filled by a one of the department’s current sworn officers.
Project Next Step provided the city with funds to hire and train a project coordinator who is working closely with neighborhood residents in a community-oriented policing program. It also provided initial funds to purchase hardware, software and cameras that assist the department in gathering information on criminal activity in Washington neighborhoods and linking it to intelligence that exists in national and regional databases.
In a presentation to the City Council in June, Reed reported that major crime offenses in Washington were down 28 percent for nearly the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to preliminary data collected by the department. Reed credits the department’s Project Next Step for that apparent reduction.
Statistics indicate that occurrences of homicide, rape, robbery-aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and arson decreased from Jan. 1 to June 8 of this year compared to the same period the year before.
Project Next Step, funded by a grant authorized by the Governor’s Crime Commission, is designed to identify criminal activity in a targeted neighborhood. The project identifies individuals involved in unlawful conduct and presents a unique manner to deal with them. If successful, the intervention eliminates overt criminal activity while bringing city and community resources available to alter the individual’s lifestyle, according to project spokesmen.