Crime Fighting Call Goes Out To Congress From 55 Attorneys General

~ Grant funds support essential criminal justice programs in Florida ~

TALLAHASSEE, FL – LAWFUEL – Calling the funding essential to the operation of state crime and drug enforcement efforts, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined 55 other Attorneys General from all jurisdictions of the United States as they collectively called on Congressional leaders to restore funding to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Byrne-JAG is currently a key source of funding available to local and state law enforcement for multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement, including methamphetamine initiatives, and is a critical source of funds for drug courts, law enforcement collaboration, gang prevention and prisoner reentry programs.

“Byrne funds are critical in Florida’s fight against drugs and violent crimes. If the severe cuts to Byrne funding are not restored, many of the multi-jurisdictional task forces will cease to exist, destroying years of cooperation and progress in crime and drug enforcement,” said Attorney General McCollum.

In FY 2007, the Byrne-JAG program was funded at $520 million. For FY 2008, the Senate had originally funded the Byrne-JAG program at $660 million and the House at $600 million in their respective appropriations bills. However, in the omnibus FY 2008 appropriations bill signed into law in December of 2007, the Byrne-JAG program funding was cut to $170 million for the coming year – a 67 percent decrease from 2007 funding levels. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) administers the Byrne-JAG funding to local and state criminal justice agencies. Funds support drug task forces, treatment and counseling to incarcerated offenders, DNA processing, domestic violence initiatives, criminal history improvements and community policing programs.

“These are dollars that sustain daily law enforcement functions as well as allow agencies to implement programs to address new and emerging challenges,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “Byrne-JAG grants are critical to our state, and these kind of reductions will seriously impair many outstanding public safety programs in place.”

FDLE has faced a growing demand for DNA services by state and local law enforcement in recent years and currently uses Byrne-JAG to aid in processing DNA samples. FDLE had planned to use Byrne-JAG funds to add DNA services to its Daytona Beach Crime Lab, an effort that has now been curtailed due to the reductions.

The Attorneys General asserted in their letter that these cuts would devastate state law enforcement efforts by shutting down multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, requiring layoffs of police and prosecutors, and cutting funding to programs proven to assist drug-addicted citizens in becoming productive members of society. The effort to restore funding has been spearheaded by the Attorneys General from Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska and Ohio.

A copy of the letter to Congress is available online at:$file/ByrneJAGFundingLetter.pdf

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