KOHL PRESSES ATTORNEY GENERAL ON CUTS TO LOCAL CRIME PREVENTION FUNDING
Questions Administration's proposed elimination of programs that successfully reduced crime in the '90's
WASHINGTON -- As violent crime begins to rise across the country, including 28 shootings over Memorial Day weekend in Milwaukee, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl criticized the Administration's drastic cuts in funding for local law enforcement during a hearing with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Kohl helped craft the 1994 Crime Bill, which created the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program to put 100,000 more law enforcement officers on the streets in cities and smaller communities across the country. The Administration eliminated the COPS hiring program and has slashed funding for the COPS budget. Kohl also strongly supports the Byrne grant program, a Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative that funds state and local drug task forces and crime prevention programs, which the Administration has proposed wiping out.
"Perhaps these budget cuts could be justified if violent crime wasn't a problem anymore -- but that couldn't be further from the truth," Kohl told the Attorney General. "How can this Administration possibly justify cutting off programs that support local law enforcement in the face of a resurgent crime wave? These were the very programs that successfully reduced crime in the '90's."
Attorney General Gonzales said that, while the Administration is very concerned about crime and wants to be sure that they're doing what they can, they are operating under tough budget times with a deficit and a country at war, and that difficult budget decisions need to be made about spending priorities. The Attorney General said that Kohl can't just look at DOJ dollars, because funding comes to first responders through grants by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Kohl noted, however, that the DHS grants do not fund more officers on the streets or crime prevention programs.
After nearly a decade in which violent crime rates fell or were stable throughout the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported last month that there was a 2.5% rise last year in violent crimes, which include homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assault. Federal funding for local law enforcement in Wisconsin via the Byrne grant program has been cut by more than two-thirds.