PLATTSBURGH - Law enforcement agencies have been given a financial boost to help with their vigilant task of securing our nation's border.
The Clinton County Sheriff's Department has received $423,959 in federal funding from Operation Stonegarden, a grant program administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency. The funding, explained Sheriff David N. Favro, will be utilized to purchase necessary equipment such as vehicles, license plate readers and cameras to enhance security along the U.S.-Canada border.
"[The grant funding] pays for all operation and maintenance of any of the equipment that is utilized during this operation. It pays for all salary and benefits for the officers that are participating in this operation," explained Favro. "There's not one penny that comes out of my local budget to be able to provide this opportunity for the North Country and the entire country."
The sheriff's department is one of 13 agencies in New York State that applied for and received funding through Operation Stonegarden, and also the recipient of the largest amount awarded in the state this year. The department has consistently received funding from the program since first participating in the border security partnership with the U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies in 2008.
According to Favro, the sheriff's department then received $329,997 and, in the following year, received $510,309. During the first nine months alone of participation in Operation Stonegarden, the department logged more than 47,855 miles and more than 2,442 hours in patrols.
"We have felt for several years that Clinton County is critical to national security. We have the largest freshwater entrance into the country with Lake Champlain. We have approximately 34 miles of international border with Canada," said Favro. "When you couple that with the over 1,100 square miles that we're responsible for patrolling and providing public safety for in Clinton County, we need all the resources we can get."
Stonegarden has solidified a partnership with the U.S. Border Patrol and members of the sheriff's department, said Favro, allowing law enforcement officials to cover more ground along the northern border and interrupt and possibly prevent any attempts at illegal smuggling and terrorism.
"This program, for what has been invested in it in the North Country, has provided more than just securing the borders," said Favro. "It has built and enhanced a law enforcement partnership that is second to none other in the country."
"The various local counties here in upstate New York have done and continue to do a great job of working with the United State Border Patrol to secure funding through this grant," added Norm Lague, agent-in-charge with the U.S. Border Patrol's Champlain station. "We look forward to working with the agencies through this grant in applying a unified law enforcement approach to border security.
Regardless of funding, the eternal vigilance of the community is still the most important thing in helping keep our county and the nation safe, said Favro.
"We really do need and implore the use of our local resources and people if they see anything suspicions - vehicles that don't seem to fit in, individuals cutting through fields, any information - please notify your local law enforcement agency right away and report that to us so we can investigate," said Favro. "The eyes and the ears of the people are our most valuable tool and we really need to utilize them to our maximum capacity."