Newton hasn't added a police officer to its ranks since 1996. The five-person department essentially has three full-time people and one part-time person who can investigate nearly 460 cases a year, he said.
A similar story has played out in Hampstead, where voters panned a plan to add two officers for two years running.
Hampstead police Lt. John Frasier said the department would like to add officers to the overnight shift. The town, with a population of 10,000, only has one officer on duty during that time.
"And they keep building," Frasier said of development in recent years. "We have five banks in town now and more strip malls coming in with one cop at night. That's not much protection."
Hampstead last hired an officer about five years ago, when voters agreed to add a full-time detective to the force.
But not everyone is looking to swell their ranks.
In Kingston, where selectmen instituted a hiring freeze, police Chief Donald Briggs is hoping to maintain the nine-member force he has after losing a full-time officer to the Eliot, Maine, Police Department. Briggs added three officers to the department under the COPS program in the 1990s, one dedicated to schools and two others for the street.
"For a small community, it's very helpful to get the seed money," Briggs said. "It was essential to reducing crime and answering an increase in the number of calls we have."
The deadline for applications is April 15. Roark said departments may find out within 90 days whether they receive the funding.