Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan is looking to boost her department’s investigative abilities through a $26,550 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant applied for last month and approved by the city council Wednesday.
The JAG program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. BPD has qualified for the grant and needed Bradenton City Council approval to spend it.
Bevan wants to purchase three new outdoor covert cameras for $1,935 “to initiate supplemental street level and covert investigations.”
Associated covert audio and video equipment along with new laptop and mobile tablet computers will include evidence software “to better investigate, document and prosecute these types of crime,” she said.
The department also will purchase 50 digital cameras for $4,000 to enhance an officer’s surveillance ability and document crime scenes bringing the total suggested equipment spending to $12,172.
In 2014, Bevan said a firearm was used or threatened to be used in 113 crimes, including two homicides within city limits. Those numbers increased in 2015 to 116 crimes, four homicides and one attempted homicide. The city also experienced a 388 percent increase in drug overdoses in 2015 with a 50 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses as part of the overall opioid epidemic.
2015 gun and drug statistics: A 388 percent increase in drug overdoses with a 50 percent increase in fatalities. 28 firearms seized in heroin and other narcotic investigations. $373,500 in street valued narcotics seized. 116 crimes with a firearm or threat to use a firearm. Four homicides and one attempted homicide.
In the same time period, BPD seized $373,500 in narcotics.
Bevan said gun violence and narcotics are closely related “in many instances,” which resulted in an increase in violent crimes in Bradenton neighborhoods.
Bevan also hopes to update the department’s report management system to electronically input recovered evidence and generate digital submissions for review. The department also will use $14,378 toward overtime needs.
While the new equipment will be geared toward more serious crimes, Bevan said Bradenton has come into a graffiti vandalism problem as well. She said these types of crimes typically take place in low-lighted areas. She said covert cameras also will be used to capture these types of suspects.
“Photographic evidence is essential to identifying suspects, increasing convictions and reducing the number of crimes committed in the city,” she said.