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Federal grant will create Regional Crime Intelligence Center

SALISBURY — Criminals don’t care about municipal borders, and that’s part of the reason the Rowan Regional Crime Intelligence Center announced Monday will be “an excellent opportunity for the region,” Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said.

Stokes was joined by U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and other local law enforcement officers, including the chiefs of the East Spencer and Spencer police departments and members of the Salisbury City Council, in announcing the crime center and a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that will make it possible.

The grant will go toward the purchase of equipment to turn a former backup 911 center at the Police Department into the Crime Intelligence Center as well as paying overtime for officers of the East Spencer and Spencer police departments. The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office was included in the request, too.

No staff will be assigned full time to the center, Stokes said, but the Salisbury Police Department’s crime analyst as well as a lieutenant and corporal from the department will be “integral” in building the Crime Intelligence Center.

“This will be an excellent opportunity for the region to work on crime problems and issues and solving them together,” Stokes said, “and give us a work space to meet our strategic plan and goal No. 1, which is to improve our collaboration with external partners and stakeholders.”

Budd helped secure the grant by writing a letter in June to the Department of Justice. Budd said East Spencer, Spencer and Salisbury had experienced a precipitous increase in homicides and aggravated assaults in the previous two years. The increase in violent crime has negatively affected the health of the towns and their police departments, Budd wrote.

“Crime is demoralizing to a community, and it also hurts property values,” Budd told the Post. “We have to stand up for property rights, for citizens’ rights, and this allows different law enforcement agencies to come together and enforce the rule of law.”

Specifically, Stokes said, the Crime Intelligence Center will facilitate more frequent sharing of information about incidents of crime, especially when they occur near a town’s or city’s borders with another municipality.

“When someone is stealing from cars here in Salisbury, they’re not just staying in Salisbury. They could be going somewhere in the county. They could be going in Granite Quarry, in East Spencer, Spencer, wherever and moving about,” Stokes said. “So we want to be able to say there was a concentration here at this location. We know we have concentrations that occur very close to the jurisdiction of Spencer and East Spencer, and we know it’s not just stopping at the border.”

In grant application documents, the city of Salisbury said it would:

• Use the money to create “a centralized location with federal state and local officers for case investigation and intelligence sharing.”

• Provide analytical support for the region related to violent crime and social network analysis.

• Create formalized operating policies to ensure information security, privacy and information-sharing procedures.

Stokes said the grant also will involve third-party research to examine whether the Crime Intelligence Center works.

Spencer Police Chief Mike James said the public might think that police departments exchange information on a daily basis. However, James said there’s a nationwide problem of poor communication. The Crime Intelligence Center will be a formalized way to ensure good communication, he said.

The grant, however, shows there’s clearly good work going on at the Salisbury Police Department, Mayor Al Heggins said.

“If there wasn’t already great work that was going on, innovative practices that are happening here, the money probably wouldn’t be coming this way,” Heggins said.

Not every agency can have the same “toys,” Sheriff Kevin Auten said. So it will be beneficial that departments across Rowan County can use the Crime Intelligence Center, Auten said.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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