Cantwell, Local Law Enforcement Team Up to Support Anti-Meth Funding
Washington state could lose millions of dollars in federal aid for local law enforcement
Thursday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), co-chair of Senate Anti-Meth Caucus, joined local law enforcement officials in Bremerton vowing to fight proposed cuts in federal anti-meth funding. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge, Bremerton Mayor Carey Bozeman, and Kitsap County Under Sheriff Dennis Bonneville joined Cantwell to protest the proposed cuts.
"Communities across our state are facing a serious meth epidemic and a rise in meth-related crimes," said Cantwell. "Local law enforcement officials are doing an excellent job, but they need every penny they can get in federal help. The proposed 80 percent funding cut would be a devastating blow to the men and women working to keep our communities safe. We simply can't afford to cut off hard-working local law enforcement officers, and I will do everything I can to get them the resources they need."
The president's Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal calls for an 80 percent cut to the primary federal programs that help local communities combat the spread of meth: COPS, Meth Hot Spots, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Byrne-JAG Grants. The proposed cuts would hamper law enforcement's ability to target area labs, prosecute meth-related crimes, and crack down on meth trafficking.
According to Kitsap County Under Sheriff Dennis Bonneville, the president's proposal would cost the Kitsap County Sheriff Department over $150,000 in Byrne Grant funding alone. Byrne grants are a main source of federal aid to local law enforcement, some of which is used to combat meth.
On Wednesday, Cantwell joined Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA), a member of the Congressional Meth Caucus, in Vancouver where the lawmakers outlined their concerns with the effect funding cuts would have on local law enforcement and the safety of communities across Washington state. Cantwell and Baird were joined by Cark County Sheriff Garry Lucas, Vancouver Police Chief Brian Martinek, and Washington State Patrol Captain Mark Couei. Last year, the lawmakers successfully fought to restore federal meth funding that was cut in the president's Fiscal Year 2006 budget. In a letter to President Bush, they vowed to do the same again this year.
"While methamphetamine production and abuse is by all accounts becoming a more serious national problem, federal funding to help state and local governments has steadily decreased since 2002," Cantwell and Baird wrote. "We are extremely disappointed in the lack of commitment to fight methamphetamine in your fiscal year 2007 budget, and believe it sends the wrong signal to local officials working hard to address this problem. Our Washington constituents rightly demand more federal help for state and local law enforcement officials to make real progress in this fight."
Cantwell has fought continuously for increased meth funding, to limit access to precursor drugs used in meth production, and to investigate the link between meth crimes and other criminal activity such as identity theft. Washington state is sixth in the country in meth production.
[The text of Cantwell and Baird's letter to President Bush follows below]
February 22, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
We write to respectfully express our concern with your fiscal year 2007 budget request for programs that help fight the devastating spread of methamphetamine. While methamphetamine production and abuse is by all accounts becoming a more serious national problem, federal funding to help state and local governments has steadily decreased since 2002. Congress reversed this trend last year, but unfortunately your budget drastically cuts programs that local communities rely on to fight the meth epidemic; COPS, Meth Hot Spots, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Byrne-JAG Grants were cut a combined 80 percent from their FY06 funding levels.
The methamphetamine abuse and control problem in the Northwest is an example of the need for additional funds. Our state of Washington ranks sixth in methamphetamine production despite having only the 35th highest population. Washington spends over $56 million annually to combat this growing problem. Seizures and the number of methamphetamine laboratories in Washington have skyrocketed. According to federal law enforcement, the methamphetamine purity rate - a key indicator of the drug's negative effects on a community - has spiked from 28 percent to 73 percent in the past three years. The costs of cleaning up a contaminated site are devastating for local communities - reaching up to $150,000 per site. A recent survey by the National Association of Counties found that 73 percent of the 200 county and regional hospitals had seen an increase in the number of people visiting emergency rooms for meth-related injuries and illnesses.
We are extremely disappointed in the lack of commitment to fight methamphetamine in your fiscal year 2007 budget, and believe it sends the wrong signal to local officials working hard to address this problem. Our Washington constituents rightly demand more federal help for state and local law enforcement officials to make real progress in this fight. We look forward to working with you on this important issue.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Congressman Brian Baird