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$300,000 grant will be used to fight gang crime

A grant from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley could help reduce gang violence in Selma and Dallas County.

The Governor awarded a $300,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force Wednesday.

Michael Jackson, who is the district attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, said his office has dealt with budget cuts over the last few years, so this grant will go a long way in keeping the task force in place.

“This helps tremendously,” Jackson said. “There’s been a lot of budget cuts with the district attorney’s offices. The state has cut our budget pretty much every year for the last five or six years. So any kind of funding we can get from the state is a big help.”

With an increase of violence over the last several months, Jackson said having the task force is a huge help to reducing crime.

“Without the task force, I don’t know where Selma and Dallas County would be. As bad as things are right now, it would be a whole lot worse, so we want to keep that unit in place,” he said. “We also are going to try to get them to be able to do more in Selma and Dallas County.”

Jackson said the state only allocates roughly $400,000 to his office each year, so it is his responsibility to find ways to cover other expenses.

“My overall budget is in the millions,” he said. “So I have to come up with all of this money each year to cover our budget, so any amount of money that we can get helps with grants and other things.”

Jackson said the grant will help employ task force members and purchase equipment needed to do their job.

“The main thing it is going to help me do is keep the task force sustainable, to keep them employed and effective. That’s where the money is really going,” he said. “They have to be able to have equipment likes guns and bullet proof vests, gas and things like that.”

Last year 17 people were murdered in Selma and Dallas County. Sixteen of them happened inside Selma city limits and in the police jurisdiction. One happened in the county jurisdiction.

Jackson hopes the task force, which does routine sweeps in target areas, will be able to reduce that number for 2017.

“There’s a lot of violent crime in Dallas County, and unfortunately it takes money to fight crime,” he said.

The grant was made available from the U.S. Department of Justice, and it will be administered through the Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.