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Rapid City police seek grant funding for Quality of Life Unit
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Rapid City police seek grant funding for Quality of Life Unit

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Officer Dan Mertz of the Rapid City Police Department's Quality of Life Unit speaks with a woman in the downtown area in this 2018 file photo.

Rapid City's Legal and Finance Committee provided its approval Wednesday for the City Council to take up a grant funding application for the Police Department's Quality of Life Unit that works to keep low-level offenders out of jail.

The full City Council is expected to hear the grant request on Tuesday.

Assistant Police Chief Don Hedrick said the funding would come from a 2020 South Dakota Department of Public Safety Victims of Crime grant. Rapid City received $134,614 in 2019 for the same purpose.

"Traditionally, law enforcement leaned very heavily on the jail to deal with very minor offenses. For example, a very low-level alcohol-related offense," Hedrick said. "We've come to find out the jail is not only inefficient at treating the underlying root cause behind that alcohol offense, but it's also very expensive and costly."

Hedrick said the Quality of Life Unit reaches out to vulnerable people that need help in getting the underlying root cause of alcohol abuse treated. He said the department has seen multiple success stories based on the proactive approach.

"There are people we used to deal with on a daily basis that we don't deal with them on a daily basis anymore," he said. "This program is good for them, it is good for us and it is good for the taxpayer."

If approved by both the City Council and the state Department of Public Safety, the 2020 grant would sustain funding for two support staff members who assist police officers in the Quality of Life Unit.

"One of those folks is paired up directly with the Hope Center and they are doing outreach with the community, trying to find folks that do want that help and need that help so we can connect them with the officers of the Quality of Life Unit," Hedrick said. "The funding would also help to fund some victims services research by pairing up with some of our victim services to find out how we can connect better and bring things to the next level."

The state's Victims of Crime Grant requires no direct funding match from the city.

Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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