VOL. 116 | NO. 143 | Thursday, July 25, 2002
By RICK RUSSELL
Local law enforcement
block grant spending
Reaches public forum
By RICK RUSSELL
The Daily News
Memphis and Shelby County residents will have a rare
opportunity today to play a significant role in crime fighting and prevention.
Law enforcement and government officials are seeking input
from the public in how $2.3 million in federal law enforcement grants should be
distributed to counter the rising crime rates of Memphis.
It is vital for us to receive input from the community in
these matters. I can assure the community their ideas as to how we can improve
our community are taken very seriously by the committees who are deciding how
this money will be spent, said Peggy Edminston, Shelby County director of the
division of community services.
The public meeting is in the Memphis Board of Education
Auditorium, 2597 Avery Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.
This is the seventh year Memphis and Shelby County received
the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant. Previous funding spawned such
initiatives as a Truancy Assessment Center, the formation of gang-related task
force teams, increased treatment for drug users through the Drug Court,
neighborhood watch programs and enhanced prosecution of domestic violence
By tapping into the local community, we can gain a more
intimate insight into how we can best address the problems facing our
community, Edminston said.
With the meeting scheduled on the heels of a two-month
stretch of crime in which children were gunned down in gangland fashion on city
streets, and with the public still reeling with outrage, Edminston said she
expects the turnout for this year to exceed the modest crowds of concerned
citizens who have attended the meetings of previous years.
Federal block grant programs, such as the Local Law
Enforcement Block Grant, are designed to allow cities more freedom and
flexibility to spend federal dollars.
There are still parameters and guidelines attached to the
block grant, but it is much more flexible, and gives the public the opportunity
to bring innovative ideas to the table, on a greater number of topics,
In light of the increasing threat of terrorist attacks, much
of the burden of fighting domestic crime has been shifted from federal agencies
to local law enforcement, placing a much greater emphasis and involvement in
crime prevention in the hands of the local citizen.
Clouding the picture, while the overall crime rate of
Memphis has increased from last year, the federal block grant was cut sharply
from the $3.2 million the city received last year.
The federal crime fighting dollar will have to be stretched
a little farther to accommodate our needs, Edminston said.
The federal grant is distributed through formula allocations
to states based on local criminal statistics. But with federal dollars being
reallocated to counter looming threats of terrorism, coupled with the daunting
possibility of a complete overhaul of the federal intelligence community, the
fiscal support of domestic crime prevention will likely continue to fall
comparatively short from previous commitments.