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Federal grant to support police programs for mental health, parking enforcement

Dover, Smyrna apply for joint grant from U.S. Department of Justice

Emily Lytle
Dover Post
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant would support the Smyrna Police Department’s mental health program. For more than a year, mental health clinician Jim Deel (pictured), has worked with the department to help reduce police calls.

The Smyrna Police Department’s mental health program has changed the way officers respond to calls, said Cpl. Brian M. Donner, public information officer.

“It’s a program that all our staff has embraced, and none of us want to see it go away,” Donner said. “Now that we’re familiar with it and using it on a day-in-day-out basis, it’s a reliant piece of our strategy for what we do with our jobs.”

The program, in which a mental health clinician partners with the department, relies on grant funds to survive. That money could be on its way.

The Dover and Smyrna police departments apply for a combined federal grant totaling $58,395 this week. The U.S. Department of Justice allocated this amount as The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to Dover, Smyrna and Kent County. The county does not qualify for the direct funds since it does not provide criminal justice services.

Smyrna plans to use $10,334 to support its mental health program, and Dover will use $48,061 to replace its parking enforcement system and upgrade technology for tracking its police cars.

In Smyrna, this money would allow certified mental health clinician Jim Deel to continue helping people with substance abuse or other mental health challenges. Deel is embedded with the department, sometimes riding with officers or following-up on police calls to help people get counseling, treatment or medication.

For example, substance abuse can often be the root to a panhandling or loitering problem, Donner said. “[It’s] not because they want to commit crimes, but because they want to support their habit,” he said. “[Jim Deel] can help them.”

Before partnering with Deel, Smyrna police would often respond to the same homes multiple times a week due to underlying mental health concerns, Donner said. Those calls are now less frequent.

In Dover, the funds would completely replace the parking enforcement system with a new one that will streamline the process.

“The new system will be real-time, so when [parking enforcement issues] a parking ticket, it’ll be back in the computer system at the same time, so there’s not a day or two delay between when our records department gets it, or downloads it, to when it scans,” said Sgt. Mark Hoffman, public information officer. 

The funds will help purchase new handheld devices for parking enforcement and the software that goes with it. It includes an online portal where people can pay their tickets. Hoffman said this will make it easier to collect payments and increase revenue for the city. “This is more of a cost-saving measure for the department and taxpayers,” he said. 

Beyond parking, this grant will help the department upgrade the technology used to manage the keys of police cars. As a security and accountability measure, an officer must scan his or her fingerprint before taking the keys of a police car. This helps the department know where and when a car was used, Hoffman said. 

The deadline to submit the joint application is Aug. 19.