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Berkeley mulls deputies grant

August 15, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The crime rate is up in Berkeley County, but the Berkeley County Commission has to decide whether it can afford to accept a federal grant to add to more deputies.

The county sheroff's department applied for a Community-Oriented Policing Service, or COPS, grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Sheriff Ron Jones learned a few weeks ago that the $143,000 grant has been approved.

One hitch is that the county would have to provide a 25 percent match on the three-year grant, about $16,000 a year. Another is similar to the one that's arising from a grant the county received a few years ago to hire three deputies. That grant is about to run out, meaning the county will have to assume the full cost of those positions.

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"We have 600 more calls this year than we had last year at this time," Jones said prior to meeting with the commission Thursday.

Arrests are also up, he said. Deputies made 869 arrests all last year, but had 753 as of Aug. 10 of this year.

The number of drunken driving arrests this year, 65, has already exceeded the 38 made in 1996, Jones added.

"I asked the county commission at the beginning of the year for four deputies. They chose not to go with that," Jones said. He now has 29 deputies.

"I sat here listening to everyone talk about growth. This proves it. We need more police," he told the commission.

"You don't have to convince the commission about the arrests," Commissioner Jim Smith said. He noted that the county's jail costs are running about double last year and will likely top $1 million.

Smith said the county will eventually have to look at higher taxes to deal with the increasing costs of law enforcement. In the meantime, the commissioners want to see what effect the expiration of the previous grant will have and how the new grant will fit into the budget.

Jones said the federal grant would be used to pay the salaries, benefits, training and equipping of two deputies. It would not cover the cost of a new patrol car. He said he believes the money would be available immediately after the commission's decision.

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