The La Paz County Sheriff’s Department has been awarded $300,000 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a component of the Department of Homeland Security, and another $25,000 by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
The bigger grant was awarded under Operation Stonegarden, which exists to fund law enforcement agencies in efforts to secure U.S. borders and improve overall border security.
“Yuma County is a Tier 1 county, because they’re next to the border, we’re a Tier 2 county,” said Sheriff’s Lieutenant Richard Epps, speaking to Parker Live. “We’ve been funded through Yuma County in the past, once a year we get together and tell them what we need. But this time, Border Patrol saw the effort we were putting in and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Phoenix saw the effort, they decided they wanted us to be our own funding county.”
With the grant comes the responsibility of putting together a local Integrated Planning Team which will decide how to allocate funds among local participating agencies.
“Once we had the invitation, we reached out to Parker Police, Quartzsite Police, CRIT Police, DPS, all agencies within our county, and told them what’s going on, asked them if they wanted to take part. CRIT and Parker did not complete, but the others did, so there are 3 agencies involved,” Epps said. “We received the $300,000 and that will be split between the 3 agencies.”
Epps said the Sheriff will be the chair of the new team, and the team will sit down with Border Patrol, Homeland Security and other relevant entities and divide it up for the maximum impact.
“At the La Paz County level, we do intercept border crossers, but the focus for us is human trafficking, sex trafficking and drug smuggling. Our placement between the two largest cities, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and on the major corridor, Interstate 10, puts us in a good position to put the funding to good use.”
Epps said the Sheriff is pleased that the department has been recognized for the hard work it’s been doing.
The $25,000 grant from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is for officer safety equipment, according to Epps.
“We got a letter from them stating that we’re approved for the amount,” he said. “We always think, what are the safety needs for our officers. One of the biggest that we haven’t been able to afford by ourselves is the ability to track our patrol vehicles with GPS. So we never know exactly where they are on a map until we make contact with deputies.”
The Spillman software used by the Sheriff’s Department has an add-on ‘module’ that will allow the extra capability, according to Epps.
“It will track the vehicles, and dispatchers will be able to see. This is huge for us, because it’ll allow better coordination, better planning, and when a call comes into dispatch, they’ll know how close officers are immediately. The Sheriff and Captain have been trying to do it for 4 years but it’s so expensive, so it’s great to have this grant to open up that module and optimize it based on the system we already have.”