WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that an additional $42 million will be put toward the state’s violent crime reduction grant program for Ohio law enforcement agencies.

The most recent grant was awarded to Whitehall Police Department, which received more than $600,000 to help upgrade equipment for faster response times.

Each agency awarded a grant will have flexibility on how they use it.

“Local law enforcement should be making the decision for their community about specifically how this money gets spent,” DeWine said.

“This is going to help improve our radios so we can communicate; a lot of times, they go down, and getting pieces is difficult,” Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen said. “It will also relieve some of the financial pressure.”

DeWine said they’ve worked to increase the number of warrants used for background checks in the federal database by 1100%.

He said his goal is to strengthen penalties for offenders who repeatedly use illegal guns.

“We’ve got to keep the small number of people who are responsible for the most violent crimes locked up longer,” DeWine said.

The governor said there is currently proposed legislation that would allow Ohio judges to “dramatically increase” sentence time for repeat violent offenders who are found with a gun.

“I would certainly hope that we would be able to get that passed in the lame duck session when the general assembly comes back in November,” DeWine said.

The Ohio Democratic Party said credit for this program cannot go to DeWine, who did not support the American Rescue Plan that funded this program

In a statement, party spokesperson Matt Keyes said:

“If Mike DeWine had his way, local law enforcement would not have this important grant funding. Thanks to the efforts of Ohio Democrats who made this critical funding a reality, Mike DeWine is doing little more than once again shamelessly campaigning and claiming credit for the hard work of Democrats who secured these critical resources for Ohio law enforcement.”

DeWine said decreasing crime is a top priority for him and that means supporting Ohio’s 900 law enforcement agencies.

“To identify offenders, solve crimes, prevent future violence, our police agencies need our support,” DeWine said.

DeWine said he has not heard any legislator say they are against the proposed bill, adding that reducing violent crime will be a top priority for this term and if re-elected in November, it will be part of next year’s budget.