Missouri City’s finest win Competitive Justice Department Grant

Photo courtesy of Missouri City In first photo, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, right, speaks with a resident about crime prevention at the City’s recent National Night Out kickoff event on Texas Parkway.

Missouri City’s nationally recognized Police Department has won a prestigious federal grant for $893,676 and will fund four new positions with the money in Fiscal Year 2011.

The award is one of five allocations to Texas police departments and will be instrumental in helping the “Show Me City” advance its proactive approach to combating crime and implementing prevention programs. Missouri City will use its allotment from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services “Hiring Program” to pay 100 percent of entry-level salaries and benefits for four positions for three years. The Police Department will be required to retain the new officers for a minimum of 12 months beyond the three-year funding period.

“The COPS grant will be essential in helping us maintain superior public safety standards and we will continue to intelligently address staffing issues and crime from every angle possible,” said Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. “The four additional police officers we gain brings our grand total to seven new predominantly grant-funded positions this year.  Our expansion in staffing of 18 percent over two years epitomizes the commitment Missouri City Council members make to Public Safety.”

In May, Council members authorized police officials to submit a grant application to the competitive COPS program, highlighting specific crime-fighting goals, including the department’s focus on gang intervention strategies. Mayor Allen Owen traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with Missouri City’s Congressional Delegations and Justice Department officials to explain “exactly what grant funds would be used for and the importance of adding officers to the police force to effectively prevent the emerging gang violence in nearby areas from becoming an issue here.” He added, “having direct discussions with these leaders was a critical component of the process and we were elated to learn last week that we won the award.”

The Police Department has been successful in cracking down on gangs by conducting strategic stings, increasing patrols, hosting community education programs such as the popular Crime Watch Program and devoting resources to the Special Crimes and Gang Enforcement Team and the Fort Bend County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. “Our interaction with the homeowners’ associations and other proactive measures like the “I choose to follow the rules” elementary school program, which teaches students to say no to violence and drugs and “Gang Awareness” workshops also impact crime,” Fitzgerald said.  “When we seek alternative funding, we place emphasis upon building sustainable programs and retaining our employees; since 1994 COPS has distributed billions of dollars to communities like ours across the nation.”

COPS’ mission is to assist law-enforcement agencies in three key areas: community partnerships, organizational transformation and problem solving. The organization’s overall goal is to enhance public safety through community partnerships and the dissemination of critical information. In Texas, other cities receiving grants from the group are the Houston Police Department, the Huntsville Police Department, the City of Patton Village, and the Waller County Constable’s Office, Precinct 2. The 2011 award for all five Texas communities is $6,403,830, and will result in the hire of 33 additional law-enforcement officers.

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