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Law enforcement agencies in Pittsylvania County are getting a funding boost from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The grants are derived from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, said Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor, adding that agencies did not apply for this funding.

Taylor said he simply received an email informing him of the amounts.

Disbursements are based on population and the number of residents below the poverty line, the number of sworn officers, and the number and types of calls run by each department, he said.

“It’s basically a gun violence grant,” said Gretna Police Chief David Wilkes, when he informed the Gretna Town Council of the money at its March 13 meeting.

Pittsylvania County will receive $307,000; Gretna will receive $301,000; Chatham will receive $91,000 and Hurt will receive $10,000, according to Taylor.

Overall, the state is disbursing $75 million, said Taylor.

The grant requires no matching funds and it can only be used for training and equipment needs, said Taylor.

Wilkes told the Town Council that he didn’t want to “paint a picture that we have a violent town.”

In an interview with the Star-Tribune, Wilkes said the Town of Gretna doesn’t have a lot of serious crime, but it does have its share of gun-related incidents.

He said that in February, there were three gun-related incidents within a week of each other.

“We don’t have a Wild West problem,” said Wilkes, but said that it appears that folks are more apt to use guns to intimidate each other, and those represent a gun-related incident.

There have also been cases of shots fired in the town, as well as suicides, and those are also reported to the state, he said.

“We were in shock over our amounts. They determined we have a desperate need,” he said of the grant amount.

Interestingly, the Town of Hurt had the most Group A – crimes against persons – per 100,000 in population for 2021 with 2,147, according to the Virginia State Police Uniform Crime Report.

Pittsylvania County had 1,565.5 per 1,000, while Chatham and Gretna were nearly the same, with 849.3 and 848.2, respectively.

The Uniform Crime Report does not list gun-related incidents or suicides.

Wilkes told the Town Council that he is looking at adding computers to their patrol vehicles.

Taylor said he’s eyeing equipment that can help with solving or preventing acts of violence, particularly gun violence.

Taylor said he plans to bring the grant announcement to the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, as it has to be accepted by the county. After that, the towns and the Sheriff’s Office have to spend the money by June 2024.

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