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The Wilmington Police Department’s crime lab and youth-mentoring athletics league could get a boost with a federal grant worth $80,607.
Wilmington City Council on Tuesday gave the city manager’s office authority to apply for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant available through the U.S. Department of Justice and meant for equipment, training and special activities.
Because its parameters require the application to come jointly with the local sheriff’s agency, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office would share the reward evenly if received and use its cut to buy a pair of new, equipped patrol cars worth $40,303 together, according to information presented to the city council.
For the city, the grant would give another five years of bounce to the acclaimed Police Athletic League, with new uniforms, trophies, basketballs and whistles in addition to contracts with area facilities for gym space. All tallied: $34,189.
It’s not intramural fitness for police; the “crime prevention program is designed to help youth make good decisions with an emphasis on staying out of any local gangs,” according to a narrative attached to the application.
The department says the traditional sports league setting is effective for connecting with and mentoring youths.
“The coach and player dynamic is a much stronger bond than just an officer meeting a young man or woman on the street or in a different setting,” Wilmington Police officer Brandon Reece told Port City Daily in February.
The league has been in place seven years.
“Surveys of the participants at the end of the seasons have indicated that there is increased respect for police officers,” according to the grant application, which notes the young players typically come from disadvantaged homes or abusive environments.
Crime lab keeping up
As for the police department’s crime lab, which went into service five years ago for quicker turnaround with forensic analyses–evidence prior had to go to the state crime lab, which resulted in lengthy waits–there’s need for another dual syringe diluter.
“The dual syringe diluter drastically reduces preparation time in conducting testing of certain types of evidence,” said the narrative.
Otherwise, the department only has one diluter on hand that ships out for calibration every year, meaning alcohol blood analyses are shut down at the lab for two to four weeks each time. It’s also nearing the end of its life.
The department says it doesn’t want a backlog: there’s been a 150-percent increase in blood-alcohol testing at the lab in the past two years. Adding a unit would cost $5,000, ideally covered by the federal grant money.
The grant’s application authority from the city council Tuesday was just ahead of Forensic Science Week–Aug. 11-17–the local focus of which will be the Wilmington crime lab.
According to Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous, it’s the only one on the state’s coast and southeast that handles blood and drug analyses. Subsequently, it serves multiple agencies.
“We can get it turned over in about three to four days where we’d normally wait six to nine months, when we ran it through the state system,” Evangelous said Tuesday. “So we can get the whole justice system moving much quicker.”
Remaining federal grant funds would pay for the training of an intelligence analyst the police department added this year. “The employee did not have previous intelligence analyst training or experience,” said the department, which explained its training budget would have covered it, but cuts intervened.
Training will be part of the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts’ annual gathering in Atlanta next year, where topics are expected to include cell phone analysis, “analytic overviewing” and human trafficking.
The city’s analyst will stay five nights at the conference hotel for a total (including the $450 registration fee) of $1,150, according to a breakdown.