The Alexandria and Arlington police departments each have received $740,000 in federal grants that will be used to purchase new cruisers, dozens of computers and an array of other equipment in an effort to enhance police services.
Funding for the grants from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance was proposed by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) to help offset costs the two jurisdictions have incurred since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"There has been a lot of budgetary pressure on public safety because of September 11," Moran said. "There is a need for homeland security preparation."
For example, Alexandria has incurred extra costs after providing security for a series of high-profile terrorism cases at the federal courthouse.
Department officials say the federal money will pay for much-needed equipment to combat crime and deal with gang-related activity as well as homeland security issues.
"This is going to be very beneficial," said Capt. John Crawford, an Alexandria police spokesman. The aftermath of Sept. 11 "drained resources and money," and the grant will allow the department to "replenish a lot of that money into equipment," he said.
Alexandria will use some of the money to buy nine fully equipped patrol cars. The new cruisers will allow members of the Special Operations team to keep some of the older cruisers at their homes. Crawford said that with police vehicles at their immediate disposal, the officers will be able to respond to emergencies more quickly.
"They'll be able to go at a moment's notice -- they won't have to stop at police headquarters to pick up the cars," Crawford said. "We didn't have enough cars to go around, but now we will."
The department will also purchase two unmarked vehicles for undercover and decoy operations. One of the vehicles will be a "bait vehicle" -- the department's first -- used to apprehend car thieves, Crawford said.
The department will also buy video surveillance equipment and 40 mobile computers.
Sgt. James Craige of the department's tactical computer section said the additional computers will allow each of the department's 300 officers to have one.
Craige said distribution of the computers, which started in 1999, has revolutionized how the department does its work. Time-consuming paperwork has been greatly reduced; non-emergency calls that used to go over the radio system are now done via computer, clearing the radio airwaves for serious matters; and officers can be deployed more efficiently.
"Our goal has been to issue a computer to every officer like a badge and gun," Craige said. "It's gotten to the point where officers feel like they can't do their job without it."
In Arlington, the grant money will be used to purchase similar equipment, including seven marked residential police cruisers and 30 in-car analog-based video recorders. The department will also purchase a variety of other equipment ranging from binoculars and night-vision scopes to tasers and hand-held infrared heat sensors.
Arlington police spokesman Matt Martin said the department will focus on seven areas in purchasing new resources: surveillance, officer safety, tactics, communication, evidence collection and preservation, training and investigations.
"What this money will allow us to do is to acquire some of those things that have been on our wish list," Martin said. "This will allow us to enhance our capabilities."
Moran, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said his Hill colleagues did not fight his efforts to get more money for the two jurisdictions.
"I think that the Justice Department and Congress realize that inside the Beltway we're really considered a ground zero target," Moran said. "It's not a local problem, it's a national and international problem . . . so it's a federal responsibility."