HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — Crime fighting efforts in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas are getting a big boost from the federal government.
The Delta city has been awarded a $1 million grant specifically to hire 10 new police officers.
Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith says the Department of Justice grant comes through the agency’s COPS hiring program and will allow this Delta community to bolster its police force.
“We just got the news, so right now we’re still in the excited stage,” Smith said. “In our grant, it’s specifically for ten, for the salaries of ten employees. Ten certified law enforcement academy graduated law enforcement officers, full time patrolmen and women in the field in Helena-West Helena.”
Smith says he and Police Chief James Smith co-wrote the grant application with hopes of raising the number of patrol officers to a full complement of thirty.
“And that is probably the biggest deterrent to crime, is when you have a lot of officers patrolling 24/7 throughout your neighborhoods,” Smith said. “That’s what this is going to make it possible to do with federal money.”
The grant will cover salaries for a five-year period and be a big financial help since the City pays for health insurance, academy instruction and uniforms for its officers.
Pastor Steve Cannon runs an after-school basketball program for youth at a neighborhood community center and says more officers will bring an increased sense of safety.
“I think it will be a blessing for our community,” Cannon said. “Just the other day, we had some shooting that was going on close to the center, and some of the kids were scared to leave out of the center because of the shooting.”
The grant for Helena-West Helena was the largest awarded in Arkansas and one of the largest in the country for the COPS program.
The hiring starts in January.