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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : For Garden Grove, the Beat Goes On

With public concern about crime near fever pitch, President Clinton’s announcement of grants for the hiring of hundreds of new police officers across the country is welcome, especially to Garden Grove and the other communities that will receive money.

The Justice Department grants, announced last week, total nearly $50 million and are the first of three rounds of awards. California was the largest beneficiary, with 13 cities and counties getting funds. Garden Grove was the only Orange County city chosen, which understandably upset some other communities; however, those not selected can be comforted by the hope of winning an award in a future round.

The $593,533 given to Garden Grove must be matched by the city over the next three years. The money will be used to hire six officers to help implement a new community policing program. That’s a good idea.

Garden Grove Police Chief Stanley L. Knee pronounced himself “ecstatic” at the prospect. But he added the sobering thought that the award reflects the fact that his city has one of the county’s highest crime rates.

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Garden Grove officials said they plan to hire the six officers soon, put them in pairs and have them patrol specific high-crime neighborhoods. The police will hold community meetings to get help from residents in battling crime and will seek volunteers for special projects such as graffiti control.

Community policing is gaining favor throughout the county, and indeed in many parts of the nation. The problem is that it is expensive, requiring more officers. Also, time is needed for results to appear.

The Anaheim area known as Jeffrey-Lynne showed a dramatic improvement over several years as new policing and community service programs took effect in that neighborhood. One of the most effective was a federally funded program in which an officer walked a beat and helped apartment owners and tenants to reduce gang influence. But the money ran out, the policeman left and drug and gang activity increased.

A Justice Department official said those who decided which cities would get grants considered factors like poverty and unemployment levels, crime rates, levels of community support and the likelihood that the programs would be continued after the initial grant money was spent. Those are sensible guidelines.

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Garden Grove had a leg up in the grant process because it already practices community policing, which police describe as a throwback to the old notion of a cop on the beat. Community policing can help build support from residents and business people. And public confidence in police is a factor in both a sense of civic well-being and actual reduction of crime.


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