Lincoln Police say gang membership has increased in the last several months. This has prompted the city to take action against gang-related crime. They hope to add new police officers.
Mayor Chris Beutler announced that the Lincoln Police Department will apply for a federal grant to add two police officers, allowing LPD to devote more resources to fighting gang-related crimes. The grant from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) would pay 75 percent of the cost of salary and benefits, up to $125,000 per officer per year for three years.
“Crime in Lincoln has been declining consistently and significantly since peaking in 1991, but law enforcement officials, residents and I have become concerned with what appears to be an increase in the intensity of gang-related crimes,” Mayor Beutler said. “Last year, there were three gang-related murders in Lincoln. I have received two confidential briefings from our police department about emerging inter-gang conflict and violence in the past two years. This grant would allow us to be more proactive in this area by committing more resources to gang investigation and intervention.”
Police Chief Jim Peschong said the City has seen an 18 percent increase in documented gang membership in the last seven months. “This past year we’ve connected several patterns of convenience store robberies to organized gang activity,” Peschong said. “In addition to the three gang-related murders, a fourth was committed by a gang member carrying a gun. We want to stay ahead of these situations in which gang members are carrying weapons and involving themselves in violent crime.”
“Responding after the fact is not as effective as prevention and early intervention,” said Public Safety Director Tom Casady. “By committing more resources to gang intervention, we will improve our chances of avoiding gang violence in the community, interrupt gang recruitment and prevent the retaliatory violence.”
Casady said the COPS grants require a 25-percent local match. He expects the total cost per officer including benefits to be about $100,000 a year, so the City share would be $25,000 per officer per year. COPS will announces its grant recipients by September 30.
The City last used a COPS grant in 2009 when it accepted $679,136 in federal stimulus funds to hire four full-time police officers. That grant provided 100-percent funding for salaries for three years. More information is available at www.cops.usdoj.gov.