$8.5 million security grant open to schools, churches and nonprofits

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Governor Mike DeWine’s STRONG Ohio bill continues to expand on a variety of safety programs throughout the state in the wake of the Oregon District shootings. 

DeWine announced that Ohio is now offering millions in grant funding to enhance safety and security at religious institutions, chartered nonpublic schools, licensed preschools, and nonprofit organizations.

The $8.5 million in grants are included in the STRONG Ohio violence prevention plan and are funded through Ohio’s 2020-2021 operating budget.

The goal of the plan is to protect citizens and law enforcement from violence; provide more treatment options for those who are a danger to themselves or others; increase the number of background checks conducted in Ohio on private gun sales; and give local authorities broader discretion to incarcerate violent offenders for longer periods of time.

DeWine announced the STRONG Ohio legislation last week and plans to push for the Ohio General Assembly to pass the proposed plans. 

There are two grant programs that organizations can apply to and earn up to $100,000 for their organization. 

One program focuses on physical security upgrades such as security cameras or communication equipment. The other is for personnel-related costs such as security or other resource officers. 

Applicants can make special requests for other security requirements that will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

“We must take steps to better protect all of our schools, religious communities, and nonprofit organizations because they all can be targets for violence,” said Governor DeWine. “The grants we are offering as part of my STRONG Ohio plan will help these organizations enhance their security and protect themselves from those who want to cause harm.”

John DiPietro is the former president of the Ohio Crime Prevention Association who now helps promote security to religious centers across the area. DiPietro said there are many security needs across the state that this grant can help address. 

Many churches and organizations are operated out of older buildings that are not optimized with modern security updates. 

Religious leaders at local synagogues expressed an interest in increasing security last year after the deadly shootings in Pittsburgh.  

Many of these organizations deal with vandalism and other acts, some of which may be unintentional. 

DiPetro pointed to the number of recent incidents involving a car being driven through a building. Often those buildings, including pre-schools and gyms, are public buildings that are “soft targets.” 

Schools, nonprofit, and religious groups who often host large gatherings of people can use the funds to upgrade facilities and protect them from anyone targeting the building or even accidental security threats. 

DiPietro stressed that these security measures are for more than just preventing a shooting. 

In the WDTN.com Web Exclusive, John DiPietro discusses what potential security needs religious organizations may have:

“We can’t take back the guns,” said DiPietro, “we can’t erase erase the racial and religious bias but what we can do is harden the target.”

The grants will be provided through Ohio Homeland Security and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Both agencies are divisions of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

The deadline to apply for the funding is November 29, 2019. 

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