Turnout sparse at hearing on federal anti-crime grant County wanted ideas on spending $121,388


Fewer than 20 people attended a public hearing last night in Ellicott City, where residents could tell Howard County how it should spend a $121,388 federal crime prevention and public safety grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most of those at the meeting in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building were members of the local chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, who want a chunk of the money for a mentoring program and weekend retreats for area middle-school students.

Only three people addressed the 13-member Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Advisory Board, and one of them suggested that the money be returned to the federal government.

Board members and the county's top law enforcement officials said they were disappointed that more citizens did not show up to suggest how the grant could be used to slow the county's growing crime rate.

County State's Attorney Marna McLendon said it would have been helpful to hear from people in the community about what they feel is important.

"I know that there are volunteer groups and associations out there which need a little funding, and this grant could provide them with the little kitty of cash," she said. "They weren't here tonight."

"I thought more people would come out to tell us how to spend this money," said Police Chief James N. Robey, adding that the department will apply for $50,000 to $60,000 of the grant money for programs designed to combat street crime.

Crime statistics released last week by Howard County police show that crimes against persons increased 24.7 percent in the first nine months of 1996, but property crimes decreased 2.8 percent.

The Howard County government made a 10 percent, $13,488 cash match to the original $120,000-plus federal grant, which has been set up in an account in the county budget.

The Justice Department spelled out seven categories for using the grant money, including establishing local crime prevention programs, hiring additional law enforcement officers, beefing up security in and around area schools, supporting drug courts, speeding up the adjudication process for violent offenders and establishing a multijurisdictional crime prevention task force.

The advisory board will present its recommendations to County Executive Charles I. Ecker April 4.

Pub Date: 12/10/96

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