Supervisors approve hiring grant for deputies to investigate gang activity

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By John Barnhart

    According to Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown, there have been signs of some gang activity in the area.

    With that in mind, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved accepting a federal grant Monday night, that will pay the salary and benefits for two deputies designated to investigate gangs. The resolution to accept the grant was originally part of the supervisors’ consent agenda but was pulled out for separate discussion at the request of District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek.
    The grant is from the Federal Department of Justice and, according to Brown, the supervisors gave his office, in May, permission to apply for the grant.
    “We do have gang activity in the county,” Brown told the supervisors. “We want to get in front of this.”
    Brown has noted that gangs are going to be one of the major problems facing the department in the future. “Gang activity is increasing in the rural areas,” he said in an interview Monday.
    He said schools are a fertile recruiting ground for gangs.
    Brown was at Forest Middle School this week and saw a letter written to the school resource officer by a Spanish teacher. According to the letter, the teacher, who is a former police officer, observed a student making gang signs during class. Brown said that gangs are targeting rural areas.    
    The federal grant will cover the salaries and benefits for two deputies for three years. It then requires Bedford to retain the two deputies for a fourth year. The cost is $65,000 per year, with the county picking up the tab in the fourth year.
    According to Corporal Kevin Young, the Sheriff’s Office’s gang expert, it would be difficult to deal with gangs without the two additional deputies. Young said that, in the case of gangs, infiltrating them is not an option. They can only try to stop them.
    “You put up as many fire walls as you can to stop them from coming into the county,” Brown said.
    “I’ll always support public safety,” commented District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry.
    District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer made the motion to accept the grant, noting that they had earlier approved asking for it.
    The grant is a COPS Hiring Program Grant. The total value of the federal grant is $267,164 over a three-year period and there is no local match requirement.
    At the end of the meeting, District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington noted that government grant dollars are tax dollars. He promised to look carefully at grant requests.
    Arrington, who is on the school liaison committee, spoke about the proposed new middle school in the Liberty attendance zone. He said that the school board is looking at using the Public-Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act  (PPEA) process to build it. Arrington noted that this process worked well when used for the Jefferson Forest High School renovation.
    Also speaking at the end, Lowry, who is not seeking reelection, noted that all the candidates seeking a seat on the board of supervisors were present, and he wished them all well.
    “I wish every one of you luck,” he said, adding that “I might grow some hair again” after leaving the board of supervisors.
    “I don’t know if he’ll miss us,” joked Board Chairman Annie Pollard. “He is wishing all of our opponents good luck.”