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$963K grant to pay new Allentown police cruisers, crime-scene technology

Jason Addy
Allentown police Chief Charles Roca speaks Tuesday, May 28, at a news conference outside the police department as officials (left to right) District Attorney Gavin Holihan, Rep. Susan Wild, Sen. Bob Casey and Mayor Matt Tuerk look on.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Some of Allentown’s top officials in the nation’s capital returned to the city Tuesday to “celebrate” an almost-million-dollar grant for police.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Susan Wild helped secure $963,000 in federal funding that will help the Allentown Police Department buy new cruisers and upgrade technology to process crime scenes and drugs.

That money will also pay for the department to improve its abilities to investigate and reconstruct vehicle crashes.

“Running a city is not cheap. And running a police department ... is also not cheap. It's just not an area that you can skimp on.”
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild

Casey called the grant a “critically important” investment for Allentown.

“We can't emphasize enough how important it is to give law enforcement the tools and the equipment and the resources they need to keep us safe and to keep themselves safe,” Casey said at a news conference outside the Allentown Police Department.

Wild credited the partnership she and Casey have built with Allentown leaders, including Mayor Matt Tuerk and Police Chief Charles Roca, who she joined Tuesday “to celebrate this significant win for our community.”

Finding federal money for new police initiatives allows the department to improve without putting more stress on Allentown’s budget, Wild said.

“Running a city is not cheap,” Wild said, recalling her stint as Allentown’s solicitor. “And running a police department and making sure that you have got all the best possible technology to go after the bad guys is also not cheap. It's just not an area that you can skimp on.”

Striving for a safer city

Allentown police officials are working on an itemized list of purchases with the new funding, so it’s too early to know how many new cruisers could soon be on the streets thanks to the grant, Roca said.

“I want these officers to be the most well-equipped, best-trained and -motivated officers that we have in the Lehigh Valley."
Allentown Police Chief Charles Roca

The funding will not only pay for new equipment; it will make the job safer for Allentown cops, Roca said.

“I want these officers to be the most well-equipped, best-trained and -motivated officers that we have in the Lehigh Valley,” Roca said.

The grant also “goes a long way” to improve working conditions for officers, “one of our fundamental responsibilities at the city of Allentown,” Mayor Matt Tuerk said Tuesday.

The funding for the police department is part of Allentown’s “broader” goal to make the city safer for residents, he said.

The new police cars will help Allentown police better enforce traffic laws; Enforcement will play a major role in the city’s push to eliminate all fatalities and serious injuries on city streets by 2030, Tuerk has said.

Casey and Wild were in Allentown last month to announce a $1.125 million federal grant they helped secure for Allentown’s Vision Zero initiative.

Glut of grants

The $963,000 federal grant for police comes less than two weeks after Allentown City Council approved a $984,000 contract for “citywide surveillance.”

That contract — covered by a seven-figure grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency — will pay for the Allentown Police Department to outfit its officers and vehicles with new cameras.

Police also plan to replace or upgrade about 175 cameras across the city to provide high-definition surveillance footage, Roca said.

Allentown City Council in March accepted more than $1.5 million from the commission for fingerprint readers, license-plate scanners and gunshot-detection technology.