July 02, 2007

WE NEED TO INCREASE MONEY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT - NOT REDUCE IT

One of the most important funding sources for local and state law enforcement is the Edward Bryne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, often referred to as the Byrne/JAG grant program.   This program provides much needed funding for drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives and many other important programs.

 

Named after New York Police Office Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988, Bryne and other Justice Assistance Grants often fund important multi-jurisdictional task forces focused on drug and firearm traffickers, gangs such as MS-13, prescription drug fraud and organized crime.

 

Results from the grant program are real.   According to the National Criminal Justice Association, in 2004 Bryne/JAG-funded task forces were responsible for the seizure of more than 54,000 weapons and the dismantling of 5,600 methamphetamine labs.   It also was responsible for removing massive quantities of controlled substances from America's streets, including: 1.8 million grams of powder cocaine, 278,000 grams of crack cocaine, and more than 73,000 grams of heroin.

 

Unfortunately, federal funding for these justice assistance programs has been dramatically slashed in recent years.   In 2003, the Bryne/JAG program was funded at $900 million; by 2006, funding had been cut by more than half to $416 million.  Last year, the Administration proposed eliminating the grant program altogether.   Many law enforcement groups, including the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, came out strongly against the cuts.

 

I have co-sponsored legislation to reauthorize and adequately fund the Byrne-Justice Assistance program, and I am pleased that the Senate recently authorized almost $1.2 billion a year until 2012 for the program.   State and local law enforcement officials get a good return on this funding.

 

Local and statement law enforcement need they financial support that these grants provide.   In 2005, FBI reports show a 2.5% rise in violent crime - including murder, robbery and aggravated assault -- in every region of the country, which is the largest reported increase in violent crime in 15 years.    Newly released FBI statistics show that violent crime in Baltimore was up 13% in 2006 from 2005; Baltimore's homicide rate is Number 2 in the nation.

 

These are frightening statistics and ones that we must take seriously.   Since 9/11, we have focused more on terrorism, often ignoring drag traffickers and street gangs.   We have to do both, and providing adequate funding for the Bryne/JAG program is a step in the right direction.