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Hall, Gainesville authorities receive $500,000 traffic enforcement grant
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A grant worth almost $500,000 has been given to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Department from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

It is intended to support the existing Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic grant.

H.E.A.T., according to the highway safety agency, is a multi-jurisdictional task force specifically designed to combat aggressive traffic across Georgia. It’s also designed to increase seatbelt use, educate the public about traffic safety, dangers of driving under the influence and distracted driving.

It started as a team of three officers and has grown to the state level.

Aggressive traffic is defined as drivers who speed or are impaired.

Hall County and Gainesville’s departments were chosen out of about 10 due to the high number of traffic fatalities compared with other counties, according to Keller Sheppard with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

The other two departments chosen were the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department and Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Three isn’t a set number of grants given out, but a number that depends on how much funding the office has to give out.

Other applicants had fewer than 10 traffic fatalities through the past two years, while Hall had 71 in the past 25 months. According to the Georgia Electronic Accident Reporting System, Hall County had 32 total traffic fatalities in 2016.

The money will be given on a reimbursement basis, meaning the sheriff’s office or the police department will spend the money, send a monthly activities and expenditures report, and the money will come in from there, according to Sheppard.

A press release sent by Sgt. Kevin Holbrook of the Gainesville Police Department said the grant would allow Gainesville Police to purchase three fully equipped patrol vehicles, as well as  the salaries and benefits to support these officers for three years.

“Agencies like the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Department receive these H.E.A.T. grants because they have shown a particular dedication to protecting their citizens from impaired drivers,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood in the release. “This dedication is crucial because alcohol-related crash deaths still account for 25 percent of traffic fatalities in Georgia.”

Further information was not available by Wednesday night. A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday to discuss the grant.