Obama Fights to Save Meth Task Force Funding
WASHINGTON - Legislation supported by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to restore funding that police officers say is crucial to fighting methamphetamine use was accepted as part of the 2007 budget. The 2007 budget is expected to pass the full Senate later this week.
Obama joined Senators Mark Dayton (D-MN) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in offering an amendment to the budget that would restore funding for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants to $900 million. The President has proposed eliminating Byrne grant funding in the 2007 budget.
Byrne grants provide funding to state and local law enforcement officials to hire more drug enforcement officers. In 2003, Congress provided $900 million for Byrne grants and more meth labs were seized in Illinois than in any other year.
"It's one thing to cut a program that's wasteful or doesn't work," said Obama. "But Byrne Grants have made a real difference. For State Police, they pay the salaries for the officers who patrol our streets. In smaller towns with limited resources, the staff provided by these grants partners with local task forces and serves as the town's only chance to fight rising drug use and violence. In southern Illinois, Byrne grants have made a huge difference for law enforcement trying to fight the surging methamphetamine epidemic. In 2004 alone, Byrne grants have helped Illinois cops make over 1,200 meth-related arrests and seize nearly 350,000 grams of meth."
At a press conference last month in Springfield, Master Sergeant Bob Bodemer, Director of the Kankakee Area Metro Enforcement Group, said that the proposed cuts would be devastating for law enforcement officials.
"Most of our personnel that are assigned to the drug enforcement task forces receive funding from [Byrne] grants," said Master Sergeant Bodemer. "Those grants are crucial to keeping those officers employed. The grant money goes specifically to reimburse police departments that contribute officers to those drug task forces, and for some drug task forces it also provides money to hire police officers directly to the taskforce...The cuts that are being proposed would probably devastate and close most of the 23 multi-jurisdictional task forces that we have operating throughout the state."
Methamphetamine use is an epidemic across the United States. A recent survey by the National Association of Counties found that 58 percent of law enforcement officials surveyed identified meth use as their greatest drug challenge. Eighty-seven percent of the counties found an increase in the number of meth-related arrests in the past three years. Seventy percent of the counties said meth use had caused an increase in robberies and burglaries, 53 percent reported an increase in assault cases and 62 percent reported an increase in domestic violence.