By Jason A. Smith
Police in Henry and Clayton counties will continue efforts to ensure safety on the roads, thanks to an annual grant from the state.
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) has awarded funds to the Henry County Police Department for the fourth straight year. The money, totaling $131,900, will be used for the agency's Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) program.
The Clayton County Police Department also received a grant from the GOHS this month.
The funds will come to Henry County in the form of a 40 percent matching grant. As such, the county will recoup $79,100 through approved reimbursement requests. Henry County is one of 27 police departments in Georgia to receive funds for their H.E.A.T. programs.
The grant will fund payroll for two of the four members in the H.EA.T. unit. A portion of the money will go toward field communications for officers.
Sgt. Jeff Owen has supervised the H.E.A.T. unit at the police department for the last year. He said the grant plays a vital role in the capabilities of law enforcement in the area.
"It provides us with officers, but also with certain specialized training for [them], such as drug recognition training for the detection of impaired drivers," Sgt. Owens said.
The funds will support efforts by the department to inform residents of good driving practices.
"The premise behind H.E.A.T., is not only law enforcement but also education," said Sgt. Owen. "We're teaching the public the importance of wearing seat belts, as well as safety seats for children. The grant will help us to do that."
According to Kimberly Monast, research and development specialist for the Henry agency, the H.E.A.T. unit has engaged in a number of education-related projects in the county in recent months.
"Brochures on proper safety restraint, child safety restraint, DUI impairment, aggressive driving and the Georgia Move Over Law were distributed to the public," she said in a written statement. "During carefully orchestrated road safety checkpoints, the officers took the opportunity to offer explanations and answer questions that motorists may have, regarding Georgia laws and safe driving techniques."
According to Clayton County police spokesman, Officer Tim Owens, the state H.E.A.T. grant has served a number of purposes over the years. "The funds were originally used for personnel and vehicles," he said. "Now, it helps to support the unit."
Owens said the grant money primarily will be used to purchase updated equipment for H.E.A.T. officers. "Some of the things the department might replace are laser units for speed detection, and alcohol sensor units for DUI suppression," he said. "The alco-sensor will help us determine whether a person is impaired by alcohol, or some type of drug."
Officer Owens added the money will soon be put to use in Clayton to prepare for Halloween, in an effort to assure the well-being of drivers and children in local neighborhoods.