The DeKalb County police department is getting 50 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs thanks to $1.8 million in special purpose local option sales tax funds.
The funds were approved at last week’s county commission meeting and could arrive as early as June. The decision comes four months after the county approved spending $8 million in SPLOST funds for 10 fire rescue vehicles and 313 radios for public safety personnel.
Residents approved the additional one penny sales tax in November 2017. DeKalb is expected to receive an estimated $388 million from the tax for road, infrastructure, and public safety improvements over its six-year run.
The SUVs will be distributed to officers and sergeants and include automated vehicle locator systems, allowing dispatch to track police vehicle locations.
“One of the complaints (we get) is ‘I never see a police officer in my neighborhood,’” Chief James Conroy said at the meeting. “We’re able to log in there, enter in an address, and it will tell us how many police cars drove by that address.”
“The vehicles themselves are an element of overall crime reduction strategies,” DeKalb Public Safety Director Jack Lumpkin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.
According to GBI crime statistics, DeKalb County police investigated 69,162 cases in 2017. That number is down from 2016, which saw 72,242.
Last week, the county also approved a partnership between DeKalb police and Ring that gives them access to videos posted in the phone app’s neighborhood portal. Residents can voluntarily upload videos of alleged crimes, allowing police to determine if a crime occurred.
Lumpkin said the department is also looking to hire more officers. The county budgeted for 800 officers in 2018 but started the year with 713 on staff. The police department ended the year with 750 officers. Lumpkin hopes they add between 40 and 50 more by the time the latest fleet of cars arrive.
While commissioners unanimously approved the funds, some raised questions about SPLOST spending and the timeline of the projects.
Commissioner Nancy Jester expressed disappointment that there was no data readily available to provide residents of the county’s SPLOST spending.
“We don’t have any data to effectively communicate with our constituents: ‘Here’s what you’ve passed, here’s what we’ve done and how we’re prioritizing it,” she said at the meeting.
DeKalb chief operating officer Zach Williams assured commissioners funds were being used adequately but admitted there needed to be more communication about SPLOST spending.
“We’re doing a lot and the board has authorized and approved a lot,” he said. “We just need to talk about it more.”
Any worries could be dissuaded at a Jan. 31 SPLOST Citizens Oversight Committee meeting. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Maloof Auditorium on 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.
In other news: