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Grants to fund more deputies, fingerprint scanners for western ND

BISMARCK – The days of rolling digits across ink pads to get fingerprints are numbered for sheriff’s offices in oil and gas producing counties of western North Dakota.

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The state Board of University and School Lands on Thursday unanimously approved about $5 million in grants for sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement agencies in the Oil Patch, including $761,200 for “live scan” fingerprint scanners that electronically capture prints and instantly transmit the data to the appropriate agencies.

“It’s much quicker, much more efficient, and they’re all asking for them that don’t have them,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.

Each scanner costs about $34,600, which includes a three-year maintenance plan, he said.

Since July, the land board has awarded about $15.3 million to law enforcement agencies in western North Dakota as part of a $240 million grant program created by the 2013 Legislature to address impacts associated with rapid growth brought on by booming oil and gas development.

Thursday’s grants awards amounted to $1.8 million for sheriff’s offices, nearly $2.4 million for law enforcement agencies through the attorney general’s office and another $934,000 for the fingerprint scanners, training to combat human trafficking and emergency assistance for domestic violence victims.

An advisory committee reviewed the applications and recommended awards, and not all requests were grant. Stenehjem’s office received 16 applications from sheriff’s offices totaling $3.79 million and 37 applications from other law enforcement agencies for $5.59 million in projects.

The grants that were awarded will pay for six sheriff’s deputies, nine police officers and a variety of other personnel, equipment and training.

Stenehjem said the money will put cops in cars on the street, “adequately trained, properly equipped and affordably housed.”

Agencies in oil producing counties had to provide a 10 percent funding match, while those outside the Oil Patch had to commit to a 25 percent match, he said.

Stenehjem said he’s confident his office will be able to show lawmakers that the spending has produced results in fighting crime and that the grant program should continue.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the board’s chairman, said the grants are “right on the mark as far as what we need to have happening out there in the short-term.”

“It’s going to make a difference,” he said.

With the grants awarded Thursday, the board has spent the entire $7 million in energy impact grants for sheriff’s departments and all but $290,000 of the $9.6 million for attorney general’s grants to law enforcement agencies for the 2013-2015 biennium.