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Feds award $5.3 million to help seven Arizona cities add police officers

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PHOENIX – Federal grants worth $5.3 million will fund 43 new law enforcement positions in seven Arizona communities, officials said Thursday.

Through a competitive grant process, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) awarded the funding to address specific law enforcement challenges.

The largest award – $1.88 million – went to the Phoenix Police Department, which plans to station 15 new officers at schools as part of its School Resource Officer Program.

Mayor Greg Stanton said having officers at schools changes students’ perceptions of law enforcement for the rest of their lives.

“The program allows young people to develop a very personal relationship with police officers,” he said at a news conference announcing the award.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia said he shares a common goal with the mayor and City Council: making Phoenix the safest major city in the United States.

But, he said, budget cuts over the past few years have presented challenges.

“Finding new and creative ways of funding critical law enforcement positions have become essential to our police department and our city,” Garcia said. “These grants from the DOJ allow us to continue those leadership efforts in adding much-needed officers in our community.”

Phoenix also received $50,000 for its Business and Economic Stability (BEST) program, a team of officers that focuses on trafficking of stolen goods and counterfeit merchandise.

“The shadow economy is a disease that takes away from legitimate society,” said Detective Sgt. David Lake, head of the BEST program. “We are an immune system to protect legitimate society.”

About $125 million will be awarded nationally in 2013 through the COPS program, a significant decrease from the $1 billion awarded in 2009.

“That’s why this year’s grants are so competitive,” said Joshua Ederheimer, acting director of the COPS office, who attended the news conference.

It’s the fourth time since the COPS program was created in 1995 that Phoenix has won a grant. The city received $50 million in 1995, $22.5 million in 2000 and $3.75 million in 2007.

Other Arizona grantees were Maricopa, Clarkdale, Glendale, Peoria, Yuma and the Tohono O’Odham Nation Police Department.

The Tohono O’Odham Nation will also receive a $570,000 grant from the DOJ’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation to enhance community policing strategies.