Illinois Police Department Boosts Tech to Fight Crime

Rockford, Ill., city officials plan to accept a pair of grants totaling more than $1.1 million that will pay to beef up city police technology meant to combat violent crime and for coronavirus-related safety expenses.

by Jeff Kolkey, Rockford Register Star / May 29, 2020
David Kidd/Government Technology

(TNS) — Rockford, Ill., officials plan to accept a pair of grants totaling more than $1.1 million that will pay to beef up city police technology meant to combat violent crime and for coronavirus-related public safety expenses.

The Rockford Police Department's emphasis on community outreach was damaged this year by the novel coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the city has seen an increase in violent crime.

Although Chief Dan O'Shea said there isn't a large enough sample size to determine if social distancing, economic disruption and the pandemic caused an uptick in violent crime, he does believe it is a factor.

O'Shea has long advocated relationship-building to combat and solve crime. Those efforts are severely curtailed by needing officers to remain socially distant.

"That's killing us as a police department," O'Shea said. "Our goal is to interact with the community every day. And to not be able to do that the last couple months hurts us, hurts our relationship with the community. What we have said from the start is that is what solves the problems: Us working with the community."

There were 545 violent crimes in Rockford through April this year, 8% more than the 505 violent crimes in the same time period in 2019. After going 132 consecutive days without a killing, there have been eight homicides since March 11.

Rockford will tap a $569,553 Department of Justice 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods grant in conjunction with the Region 1 Planning Council. It will be used to acquire additional technology including $302,070 for fixed location license-plate readers, $43,763 for surveillance cameras, $70,000 to enhance the Rockford Intelligence Special Operations Center and $153,720 for violent crime overtime costs.

There is no local match required for the grant.

O'Shea said the technology plays a critical role in investigations and should help detectives track down and arrest violent criminals.

In addition, Rockford plans to accept a $572,968 grant from the Department of Justice for coronavirus response. O'Shea said the money will pay for related expenses for the Rockford police and fire departments. The city applied for the grant only about 30 days ago, he said.

About $75,000 will be spent on personal protective equipment and disinfectant materials for fire and police personnel while the rest will pay for overtime costs associated with the pandemic.

©2020 Rockford Register Star, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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