COVINGTON - The Newton County Sheriff's Office has received a $155,917 grant to purchase two crime scene investigation units and 30 portable radios.
The money comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.
Sheriff Ezell Brown said the grant will be used to purchase two vans that will be converted into crime scene investigation units, carrying the tools and equipment necessary to collect evidence at crime scenes.
He said the department will train two staffers to become crime scene specialists, to "cover major crimes, looking for evidence linking individuals to crimes."
He said the grant should be enough to pay for one of those staff members and the department is seeking other funds to support the hiring of the other.
Currently the Sheriff's Office has one crime scene investigation unit and specialist, who also shares other responsibilities, he said.
Brown said having specialized crime scene units is necessary given the rise in certain types of crimes, including burglaries, which he said have increased more than 90 percent in the past four years. Burglaries increased about 25 percent from 2007 to 2008 alone, he said.
The grant will also fund the purchase of 30 portable radios to be used by school resource officers. The radios are needed to ensure that he officers have direct communication with the patrol division and communication command center, he said.
No matching funds are required from the county. The Board of Commissioners accepted the grant Tuesday night.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.