The loss of Community Development Block Grant funding for foot and bicycle patrols for the Marietta Police Department could actually become a good thing for the city, officials say.
After several years of receiving CDBG funds, this year the money for the foot and bicycle patrols will come from the general fund.
By taking the monies from the general fund, police officers can now offer more patrols throughout the entire city instead of the four districts specifically set aside to receive CDBG funding, said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.
"It lets us direct patrols to where we get complaints," Waite explained.
More than $64,000 had to be removed from the CDBG budget this year after cuts in state funding.
In the original CDBG budget, the police department was scheduled to receive $4,734 for four separate districts in the city, a total of $18,936.
At a glance
Uses for the funding:
Foot and bicycle patrols during downtown city events such as the Riverfront Roar, the Sternwheel Festival and the Sweetcorn Festival.
Targeted patrols in areas that have seen an increase in criminal activity.
Source: Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick
Special events in the downtown district have been the primary target for the use of funds from the CDBG, said Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick.
The Riverfront Roar, Sweetcorn Festival and Sternwheel Festival all saw additional police presence through the grant, which provided the money needed for officers at those times.
Additional patrols were also part of the grant.
"Some of the neighborhoods where we were having trouble, we'd put people out on foot patrol at night," McKitrick explained.
Festivals and downtown events still figure to see the majority of patrols, but the ability to go where there is need is a luxury the department now has, police said.
"It's better to ride where you're needed than to ride because you're designated for that area," said Marietta Police Patrolman Bob Ellenwood, who has served on bicycle patrols since 2000.
Bicycle patrols open up new avenues of investigation as well. They're quick, and officers don't draw as much attention as they do when in a cruiser, Ellenwood said.
Ellenwood recalled once receiving a report of an alarm going off at Kmart on Pike Street during the Sternwheel Festival shortly after the fireworks display.
With police cruisers tied down in traffic, Ellenwood said he actually beat all officers to the scene by taking his bike.
Those benefits can now be realized over more of the city, he said.
"It also lets us be proactive to get out there and maybe stop crimes before they happen," Waite added.
This weekend will be the first time the foot and bicycle patrols are used, with the Merchants and Artists Walk taking place Friday evening while the Brick Street BBQ will run Friday and Saturday.
While they're pleased to be able to cover more of the city by receiving general fund money instead of CDBG, officers still worry that it might cause problems down the road.
"You're getting better patrol and better enforcement, but in the long run is it going to hurt the budget," Ellenwood wondered.