September 28, 2011
Police grant on chopping block
House cuts federal money for underage drinking enforcement
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland Police Department officers Andy San Jule, left, and Kyle Green monitor in November crowds along Main Street. The city received a $20,000 grant Friday to combat underage drinking, but the U.S. House of Representatives eliminated funding for the program in a 2012 spending bill.
Federal grant money aimed at helping police and local agencies curb underage drinking among college students might not be available next year.
The U.S. House of Representatives decided last week to eliminate the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws program, according to Kimberly McRae Friedman, executive director of Cortland Prevention Resources.
The local agency has used those federal dollars in recent years to train police officers and fund educational programs about drinking and substance abuse. Cortland Prevention Resources on Friday received a $20,000 grant under that program for the third year in a row, McRae Friedman said.
The program could continue next year if the Senate votes Thursday to keep it in the federal budget for 2012-13.
The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services handed out the funding — $100,000 in all — to agencies around New York.
The money is used locally to supplement costs by Cortland city police and SUNY Cortland police for enforcing underage drinking, as well as educational programs, McRae Friedman said.
“In order to have a significant impact, we have to have overtime and training,” she said. “I think it (the grant) has been as successful as small pots of money can be.”
Downtown Cortland’s bars get crowded on the weekends when college is in session and police keep officers near the bar scene, often on the street Friday and Saturday nights. Officers also respond to complaints of drunken or disorderly activity, such as loud parties, and monitor for underage drinkers downtown.
Cortland Police Lt. David Guerrera said the police department does not depend on the grant money for those enforcement efforts, but the dollars have proven to be an asset.
“We definitely utilize this money to put officers on the street,” Guerrera said. “It’s a supplemental thing ... but without it, we couldn’t be as proactive.”
Police plan to use some of the money to purchase a portable ID scanner that officers can use to check for fake driver’s licenses during underage drinking patrols.
Cortland is a college town, and local police agencies routinely handle underage drinking incidents — both on and off the college campus.
Police officers from around Cortland County participated in their first collaborative party patrol training in April to refine their tactics for handling underage drinking parties.
That training was also funded through a grant from the state Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The $20,000 grant Cortland Prevention Resources received Friday is a continuation of that same program, McRae Friedman said.
Five other alcohol and substance abuse awareness agencies around the state received similar grants last week. More than 50 agencies applied for the funding, which indicates how competitive the grants are, McRae Friedman said.
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