Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that the $800,000 she included in a 2010 spending bill for Whatcom County law enforcement has passed the full Senate. The bill includes $500,000 to support Whatcom County prosecutions, $200,000 to support Whatcom County’s Multi-Jurisdictional Data Integration program and $100,000 to address the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office’s overtime costs associated with the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Too often, when we discuss the challenges of immigration and criminal prosecution, the problems of our Northern Border communities are forgotten," said Senator Murray. "I am working to ensure Whatcom County has the support it needs to deal with the burdens of serving as a national entry and exit point."
As the major border crossing to British Columbia, Whatcom County’s significant caseload of border-related crime will likely increase due to the 2010 Olympics. The $500,000 contained in the Senate bill supports Whatcom County’s ongoing and effective Rapid Border Prosecution Initiative to “fast track” prosecutions and free resources to focus on other high-priority law enforcement needs. In combination with the Northern Border Prosecution Initiative, this program provides significant support for prosecutions in Whatcom County to enhance public safety.
"The Rapid Border Prosecution Project continues to allow our Justice System to reduce the days that it takes from filing a felony to its disposition. The speed of handling these cases allows us to spend more time on the complicated matters, including the major Border drug smuggling investigations handled in this office. This program has been a terrific benefit and the positive results keep coming,” said Dave McEachran, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney
Anticipating the need for effective communication during and after the Olympic Games, Whatcom County has developed an integrated law enforcement and criminal justice network known as the Whatcom Exchange Network (WENET). Rapid sharing of criminal enforcement data between regional, federal and border law enforcement agencies will be expanded with $200,000 from this bill.
“The overwhelming success of the WENET Project, thus far, has facilitated speedy resolution to many crime related events that would normally have taken hours or days to connect the pieces of information, which enable a resolution of the situation,” said Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen.
In addition, Whatcom County expects to face a significant impact from the 2010 Winter Olympics and the thousands of spectators and visitors who are expected to travel to and from Canada through Whatcom County. Whatcom County Sheriffs Deputies will be required to work overtime to provide the additional patrol shifts, deal with increased traffic, and respond to emergency situations during the Games. Additionally, the 2010 Olympics Coordination Center, located in Bellingham, WA, will require additional staffing to facilitate state, local, and federal law enforcement and security coordination efforts. The bill provides $100,000 to meet this need.
“Whatcom County families should not be forced to bear the full burden and cost for the additional service that will be required of their sheriff’s office during the 2010 Olympics,” said Senator Patty Murray. “This funding will ensure that Whatcom County has the resources it needs to protect its citizens and provide an adequate numbers of first responders to maintain order and safety during these historic Olympic Games.”
“Adequate funding to ensure increased availability of first responders and security personnel is a priority in order to provide for the safety and security of the citizens and visitors to our area during the 2010 Olympics,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. “We have worked diligently for the last several years, to anticipate, plan and enhance the coordination of response capabilities in a fiscally responsible manner to address the security needs associated with a major international event.”
Senator Murray has also introduced legislation, S. 1187, the Local HEROs Grant Act, to authorize funding local law enforcement overtime for response to major homeland security events, including events such as the 2010 Olympics.
The funding was included in the fiscal year 2010 Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 71-28. Senator Murray is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.