CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners approved submitting a concept paper to apply for $213,000 through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to incorporate modern advances in law enforcement that have increasingly recognized more types of crimes that have migrated across municipal boundaries.
At Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, Lisa Kovalick, the county’s planning and community development specialist, said law enforcement requires the combined technologies of disparate agencies that must cooperate across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. She said there are seven, different police agencies that serve eight municipalities in Clearfield County.
According to her, four police agencies – Clearfield and Curwensville boroughs, Sandy Township and DuBois City – currently use the Visual Alert reporting system in their police vehicles, which assists them with their reports. However, she said they are not equipped with the ability to share information. She said Lawrence and Decatur townships and Morris-Cooper Regional currently do not have these capabilities.
She said the county is applying for the JAG funding for Innovation in Technology and Information Sharing. She said this would allow the county to purchase equipment and software for the police agencies in need and to set up a server at the 911 Center, which would maintain the data. She said the Visual Alert software would help improve the accuracy and reliability of state and local criminal justice data through the automated exchange of information.
Back in July of 2012, Kovalick said the county’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) conducted a strategic planning session and identified the need for a county-wide law enforcement database to share data with all police agencies in real time. She said this system would allow police agencies to access and share information “at the touch of a finger” during an investigation or while searching for a criminal on the run. Kovalick said police agencies, 911 officials and CJAB members agreed that they need to begin sharing information to solve crimes and to keep the communities safe.
Kovalick said the Visual Alert reporting system server would be maintained at the 911 Center. She said all police agencies would have access to the information contained within, allowing for an increase in crimes to be solved in each jurisdiction. She said this would in turn prevent criminals from falling through the cracks.
“This will enable police personnel to spend more time out serving the public and less time sitting at desks writing reports,” she said. She said any information entered would automatically be shared on the 911 server, and it would prevent police personnel from repeating their work.
She said the eight municipalities account for 55 percent of the county’s crime reports. She said the Clearfield- and DuBois-based state police account for the remaining 45 percent of the county’s crime reports, as well as some coming from Punxsutawney.
When asked by the commissioners, Kovalick said the four police agencies, which already have the Visual Alert reporting system, are responsible for their recurring licensing. She said the county would have three police agencies that would be responsible for recurring licensing yearly, and it would be anywhere from $1,000 – $3,000.
Kovalick said there would also be a recurring fee annually for the 911 Center for licensing all of the police agencies and it maintaining the information for them. She said this fee would be around $13,000. Kovalick said at Monday’s CJAB meeting, she calculated it would be around $2,400 for Clearfield and Curwensville boroughs, Sandy Township and DuBois City on top of their own licensing if they choose to do so.
Kovalick said Debra Archer of Clearfield 911 was also going to explore including this fee with their wireless grant, but that wouldn’t be guaranteed. Commissioner Chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen said those monies were already accounted for.
Commissioner John A. Sobel said CJAB was made aware the JAG grant would cover the first year. He said it was also made aware that there could be a scramble for funding if not all of the JAG funding comes through the second year. At that point, Robinson-McMillen said, “It’s still our name on that grant.”
Kovalick said as the county’s grant writer, they were only submitting a concept paper at this point. She said the county would have to be selected to proceed with the grant application. At that point, she said she expects there would be a memorandum of understanding involving all seven police agencies. She said the county wouldn’t be selected to proceed if it couldn’t show sustainability beyond the first year.