That's the question Lehigh County Commissioner Gloria Hamm asked when Exec. Don Cunningham first proposed handing out $1 million, over three years, to fund community policing in Lehigh County. That was back in April of 2008.
All five Republican Commissioners, worried that Lehigh County was going beyond its core functions, had reservations. But Commissioner Dean Browning decided to support the project when he and Cunningham worked together to find a way to fund this grant without spending real estate tax revenue.
Lehigh County taxpayers currently spend $1.1 million per week to prosecute and incarcerate criminals. If that cost can be reduced by funding a few cops on bicycles, it is money very well spent.
Cunningham will hand out more than $300,000 in checks to six municipalities that qualified for a Safe Streets Grant to hire police officers during an 11:30 a.m. presentation on Thursday, Oct. 1 at the West Bethlehem Police Substation at 434 W. Broad St., Bethlehem. He'll also be introducing some of the new community police officers who will be serving in Allentown, Bethlehem , Catasauqua, Fountain Hill, Macungie and Salisbury.
Allentown will receive funding for four police officers, Bethlehem two and the boroughs of Catasauqua, Fountain Hill and Macungie, along with Salisbury Township, get one.
Cunningham, who initiated community policing as Bethlehem's Mayor, hopes that the visible presence of police officers will draw people back to downtown areas and reinvigorate the urban core. “It’s a win-win situation. Municipalities save money on police and the county becomes a more desirable place to live.”
This is the first year of a three-year county grant program, awarded to communities who put forth the best community policing programs.