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Authorities accept $500K grant for traffic enforcement
Funds will pay for cars, personnel for Hall County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Police
Governor's Office of Highway Safety Communications Manager Robert Hydrick waits with a big check Thursday afternoon at the Hall County Sheriff's Office headquarters as GOHS Director Harris Blackwood speaks. The Gainesville Police Department and the Hall County Sheriff's Office received funds from the GOHS to support the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic grant.

Fatal crashes in Hall County

2010: 26

2011: 26

2012: 26

2013: 17

2014: 21

2015: 35

2016: 32

Source: Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office

Three more officers will be enforcing traffic laws in decked-out cars as the first step of an estimated $500,000 grant program targeting traffic fatalities.

Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood presented a big check for $250,000 to Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin and Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Todd Casper.

“This is hard to get through the drive-in window at a bank,” Blackwood joked.

The money will purchase patrol vehicles and pay the salaries and benefits of three officers.

Hall County previously received a grant through the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic initiative, and the partnership between Gainesville and Hall County is the second combination of a city and county.

Gainesville police will have one officer, and the sheriff’s office will have the other two.

“They’ll work in unison as far as the amount of educational events,” Casper said.

In a press conference Thursday, Blackwood said Gainesville-Hall County had a “demonstrated need” for the help. In the past 25 months, there have been 71 fatalities on Hall County roads.

“We believe this will result in reduced fatalities and safer roads in Hall County,” Blackwood said.

Hall County had 32 fatalities in 2016, three fewer than the year before. Hall County’s statistics bucked the state trend, which saw 114 more fatalities last year compared to 2015.

Blackwood said the first year’s check will pay for the cars and paying the officers. An undetermined amount will be given later to continue paying salaries and benefits, as well as maintenance and educational event expenses.

“The big expense comes in that first year when you’re buying three fully equipped police cars,” Blackwood said.

Casper said he hopes to have the new equipment in the next 90 days.

“The guys have already started in the position, because they’re pay is already being paid, although we haven’t gotten the equipment,” Casper said.

Some of Casper’s unit has taken to Browns Bridge Road, where officers have noticed speeds above 100 miles per hour. Casper’s unit wrote seven citations in three days for unlawfully passing a school bus.