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Cantwell Leads Bipartisan Senate Coalition Urging Investment in Key Program to Fight Snohomish Crime

 

March 29, 2012



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last Friday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Chuck E. Grassley (R-IA) led a bipartisan coalition of 42 senators in support of continued investment in a crucial tool for local law enforcement in the fight against drug trafficking in Snohomish County. The coalition, in a letter penned to Senate Appropriators, opposed any additional cuts to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program, which helps states and communities across the country reduce crime, prevent juvenile delinquency, and reduce recidivism.

“As you well know, Byrne JAG is a cornerstone crime-fighting program that supports the federal government’s crucial role in spurring innovation across the criminal justice system, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide,” wrote the Senators in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. “Given the significant financial constraints the federal government has faced in recent years, funding for Byrne JAG has been reduced by nearly one-third over the past two fiscal years. Therefore, we ask that the Byrne JAG program be protected against further cuts in the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.”

In the past five years Byrne JAG grants have been used to aid the Snohomish Regional Drug & Gang Task Force. These investments were used to support operations that led to the seizure of over 100,000 grams of cocaine and over 34,000 grams of methamphetamine. During that time the Task Force has made 916 drug arrests in Snohomish County.

“In these challenging economic times, a reduction in federal dollars for the BYRNE grant correlates into a big win for the bad guys,” said Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick. “Local government depends on these funds to encourage partnerships in our community to help us in our fight to reduce drug and gang activity. The loss of funding for this program will result in more drug and gang activity which will cause violent crime to rise and negatively affect the quality of life for our citizens.”

In Washington state, Byrne JAG investments have been used to keep vital law enforcement programs alive that go after criminal gangs and facilitate drug treatment during a time when budgets for law enforcement officials and prosecutors across the state have been cut. These grants can be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and criminal justice information systems. Investments in the program have been reduced by over one-third in the past two fiscal years.

Even with lower investment levels, the program has played a major role in reducing crime. Nationally, from October 2008 through September 2011, recipients of Byrne JAG grants:

· Disrupted over 5,000 drug trafficking organizations

· Arrested 7,739 gang members on felony charges

· And from July 2010 to July 2011 seized 2.3 million pounds of drugs

The Byrne JAG program is a partnership among federal, state, and local governments that tailors federal law enforcement grants to the needs of different communities. It supports a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system that include: law enforcement programs; prosecution and court programs; prevention and education programs; corrections and community corrections programs; drug treatment programs; and planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.

The procedure for allocating Byrne JAG grants is based on a formula of population and violent crime statistics, in combination with a minimum allocation to ensure that each state and territory receives an appropriate share of investments. Sixty percent of Byrne JAG grants are allocated to states which then provide it to innovative programs in local communities. The remaining 40 percent is provided directly to communities via a state-wide competitive grant process.

The letter to Senate Appropriators was signed by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), John Kerry (D-MA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), James Inhofe (R-OK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mark Begich (D-AK), David Vitter (R-LA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Jack Reed (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Cantwell has long fought for federal programs that provide support to local law enforcement to fight crime in Washington communities. She has been a leading supporter of the Byrne JAG program. At this same time last year, Cantwell was proud to lead a bipartisan letter calling for robust funding in Byrne JAG funds. In 2005 she called on then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to launch an investigation into gang related meth trafficking in the Washington state area. In 2006 Cantwell led the charge to pass the Combat Meth Act and secured $99 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to combat the problem.

The complete text of the letter sent on Friday follows.

March 23, 2012

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski

Chairwoman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

142 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

125 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Hutchison:

Thank you for your continued leadership in providing substantial federal support for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program over the years. As you well know, Byrne JAG is a cornerstone crime-fighting program that supports the federal government’s crucial role in spurring innovation across the criminal justice system, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide.

Given the significant financial constraints the federal government has faced in recent years, funding for Byrne JAG has been reduced by nearly one-third over the past two fiscal years. These cuts will have a direct and serious impact in our states as successful public safety initiatives and cross-jurisdictional collaborations are forced to close or be scaled back. Therefore, we ask that the Byrne JAG program be protected against further cuts in the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.

One of the keys to the Byrne JAG program’s continuing success is its flexibility: federal dollars can be used in a wide variety of capacities at the local level in the way most appropriate to address local community needs across the criminal justice spectrum, and allows localities to balance resources and react to urgent challenges or changing circumstances.

Byrne JAG funds are used for law enforcement, prosecution and courts, prevention, drug treatment and enforcement, gang prevention, planning, evaluation, training, technology, and crime and victim witness programs. Guided by statewide strategic planning, Byrne JAG funds are able to test and measure innovative methods for reducing crime, preventing juvenile delinquency, and reducing recidivism, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars.

Sixty percent of Byrne JAG funds are provided to the states to pass through for innovative programming in local communities. The remaining forty percent is provided to local communities directly. In Fiscal Year 2011, over 1,300 local jurisdictions across the country were awarded direct grants, and many more were awarded funds passed through by the state criminal justice planning agencies.

As you move forward in deliberations over Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations, we ask that you continue Congress’ commitment to the Byrne JAG Program.

 

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