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Austintown police use grants to benefit township, slow down drivers

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Mark Roberts began attending township meetings a few weeks ago on behalf of his street, Norquest Boulevard, and issues with speeding there.

Chief Robert Gavalier said it’s one of several roads police get calls about for speeders, and the department recently filed for a grant for at least one radar trailer.

That was good news to Roberts.

“We can’t get out of our driveways anymore because there are cars going down the road at 70 miles per hour,” he pleaded to trustees at a September meeting.

Gavalier said officials had applied for grants to get radar trailers before. The department is now trying out one, which will be purchased if they like it, on top of the one applied for through a grant.

The grant was submitted through the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, and departments can request up to $20,000 in equipment per grant year. The new radar machine is valued at $6,300, Gavalier said.

“This is just going to make people more aware that they are speeding on that street and hopefully make them more aware and slow down,” Gavalier said. “It’s not going to make the problem go away, but using the enforcement with the officers and using this to make them more aware of it, hopefully that will help with the traffic.”

Other streets that generate speeding complaints are Innwood Drive, South Warwick Drive, Willow Crest Drive and Elmwood Avenue, Gavalier said.

But for Roberts, a former Youngstown police officer, a machine can do only so much. He and Gavalier agree on that point.

“It means a lot. It’s something, definitely,” Roberts said of the grant. “I’m glad they’re trying to do something, but we had a radar machine out there before, and it only helps for so long.”

Roberts recalled seeing motorists realize there was not an officer patrolling near the speed trailer and began using the speed tracker as a way to see how fast they could go. He had the radar set up in his yard. “It’s not like they have a lot of cars to work with, but when they were working this road, people were slowing down,” he said.

But some roads do not have the space to safely place a radar trailer, so police work with neighbors and set it up in someone’s yard — much like Roberts previously did.

Gavalier also said the department has received funding to hire four officers over the past two years totaling $500,000 through Community Oriented Policing Services. Last year’s funding for the first two went to school resource officers. This year’s funding will go toward cops on the roads.

A requirement of those grants, which run for three years, is that the department must keep the officers after the funding runs out. Gavalier said sometimes that is done through retirement. The department currently has 39 officers.

“I know most departments are undermanned. I mean, [more officers] would help, definitely, and you’ve got to utilize them, and that would help,” Roberts said. “I do think you shouldn’t sit out there and write tickets, but if you do it sporadically, it will help.”

He added, “Something’s got to be done. It’s getting nasty out here.”

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