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Allentown, Pa., Police Get $1M from Feds for Tech Overhaul

With the new federal money, the Allentown police will soon upgrade the city’s police cruisers, photo equipment and the software used to document crime scenes or test for illegal drugs.

(TNS) — Thanks to nearly $1 million from the federal government, Allentown police will soon upgrade its police cruisers, photo equipment and software to document crime scenes and test for illegal drugs.

The investment helps the police department inch closer to becoming a “21st century” department, according to Chief Charles Roca.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, who are both up for reelection in November, took credit for pushing for the funding in the fiscal year 2024 government funding bill.

“I don’t think I need to explain to many people how critical it is that we invest in law enforcement,” Casey said.

According to Roca, the new technology will help police test and process illegal drugs, photograph crime scenes and enhance their fleet to patrol traffic and neighborhood crime.

‘I want these officers to be the most well equipped, best trained and motivated officers that we have in the Lehigh Valley,” Roca said.

Roca could not say exactly when or how many cruisers and other equipment will be purchased, because the department is still working on an “itemized list” of everything the grant will cover.

It is not the only recent financial boost the department has received to pay for advanced technology. The city in January announced a $4.1 million purchase of gunshot detection technology, paid for via a state grant, and City Council recently approved a nearly $1 million contract to install a citywide video surveillance system, also funded via the state.

Those upgrades are helping the city achieve its goal of modernizing its response to crime. Other initiatives are still in the works, like the launch of an online “crime dashboard” that would allow residents to see neighborhood level data about crime in their area.

The city in February also announced its plan to renovate and build a large addition to its police headquarters on 400 Hamilton St., that would modernize the facility and allow all officers to work there — some patrol officers work from a facility a few blocks away.

The city does not yet have funding for the estimated $28 million cost for the new police headquarters, and Mayor Matt Tuerk has previously said a tax increase could be necessary in 2025 to fund that and other much-needed infrastructure upgrades. He pushed for a 2% tax increase in the 2024 budget, but City Council rejected it in a 4-3 vote.

Both Casey and Wild expressed support for further federal investments in the Allentown Police Department.

“We get hundreds of applications for federal grant money all the time, and we generally weigh them in the context of what is most beneficial to the community and then how does it fit in with the top priorities of most residents,” Wild said. “Public safety is always at the very top of the list.”

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