Grant allows metro Atlanta city to double number of police officers

City of Lithonia Police Department
City of Lithonia Police Department

Credit: Lithonia Police Department

Lithonia hiring 8 new officers thanks to $827,000 federal grant

Residents of one of metro Atlanta’s oldest and smallest cities will see more blue soon: The local police department is effectively doubling in size.

Lithonia was awarded an $827,258 federal grant, allowing the city’s police department to hire another eight full-time cops. Police Chief Nathan E. Pollard said the grant award is a “blessing” and eight officers doubles the manpower of one of metro Atlanta’s smallest police departments.

“Without it, we would’ve continued to struggle,” Pollard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “... Now is this going to stop all crime? Hell no. But we’ve noticed the visibility (of officers) is going to help us and the extra interaction with the community is going to help us.”

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Lithonia is the only city in north Georgia to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Police Services Hiring Program. In total, the program awarded $139 million to 183 law enforcement agencies across the country.

Located in southeast DeKalb County, Lithonia only spans roughly 600 acres and has fewer than 2,700 residents. The grant award is nearly double the city’s annual police department budget — $442,000.

Pollard said the money is invaluable for a small department.

“Just like everybody had coming out of COVID and going through COVID, we had some issues dealing with (employment) numbers. I currently have a shortage of officers as far as patrolling,” Pollard said. “This will allow me to increase those numbers when it comes to patrolling the city and putting more feet on the ground, helping me with response times.”

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He currently has five officers patrol the streets, two cops perform administrative duties and one officer work with the Georgia Crime Information Center. Pollard said the new hires increase the number of patrolling officers to 11, adds a supervisor and allows the department to have an in-house criminal investigation officer for more serious cases, such as aggravated assault and shootings. Lithonia police currently rely on DeKalb County police for such investigations.

Pollard said residents will soon notice more frequent patrols, and the new hires will help improve officer safety, since backup will be more readily available.

The grant awards can only be used for personal costs, and it lasts for three years. Once the funds are depleted, it’s up to the city to foot the bill in order to keep its larger department staffed. Pollard said the city will need extra income if that’s going to happen.

Lithonia attempted to annex 300 acres via a referendum, but a handful of voters rejected the idea this past election cycle. With only 25 votes cast, the referendum barely failed, but Pollard said the city needs the extra land and residents to bolster the city’s budget.

“The city is looking to once again go after annexation,” he said. “So in three years time, we would pray that the scenario has shifted to where those officers would become a part of the situation that is not a burden on the budget and that they are just a regular piece of the operation.”

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