WHITE COUNTY, Ark. – According to the sheriff’s office, violent crime in White County is expected to decrease thanks to a new federal grant allowing local enforcement to do some things that they have never done before.
For Fiscal Year 2023, the Bureau of Justice Assistance Rural and Small Department Violent Crime Reduction Program had about $10 million available. Officials said a little over 30 departments nationwide were awarded a piece of the funds.
The White County Sheriff’s Office received $300,000, the maximum the grant allowed, and deputies believe they were the only agency in Arkansas to receive the award this year.
Project SAVIOR stands for Strategy Against Violence On the Rise. It headlined a 21-page grant proposal WCSO submitted in June and learned they were awarded at the end of September.
According to the proposal, 77% of U.S. counties are safer than White County when it comes to violent crime rates. Recent years have been some of White County’s deadliest with 24 homicides from 2020 to June 2023. That doubles the 12 the area saw in the previous four years.
WCSO Sgt. Detective Joshua Biviano said that’s a statistic they definitely want to tackle.
“That is not a statistic we are proud of by any means,” Biviano said.
Project SAVIOR has six parts to it to tackle crime reactively and proactively: continuing cellular forensic funding, installing FLOCK cameras, expanding specialized training, obtaining new equipment for deputies, establishing a multi-agency violent crime review team and creating the first county Citizens Police Academy
When it comes to funding, one of the largest goals is buying and installing more than a dozen license plate reading cameras that connect to the FLOCK national database they already use. The cameras, which would be new to inside White County, allow for real-time alerts to law enforcement personnel and the analysis of high-crime areas.
“By date, by vehicle description, color, make, and model,” Biviano explained. “You can search by a particular license plate.”
The grant also allows for the creation of a violent crime review team, including every agency in the county, and the first Citizens Police Academy to increase community engagement.
“We definitely want to have input from the community. We are not one trick ponies,” Detective Andrew Palmer said. “We’ve got to learn. We’ve got to adapt.”
Detectives say the new initiatives would not have been possible without this money.
“It’s simply night and day the stuff we would not have been able to do without it,” Palmer said.