KEEPING OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE FROM CRIME
Reports estimate that gang membership has escalated to approximately 850,000 with 25,000 gangs operating in communities all across the country. Gang activity has been directly linked to the proliferation of illegal drugs, human trafficking, identification document falsification, violent maiming and assault, and the use of firearms to commit shootings and murders. Gang violence and activity is no longer confined to big cities; it has already spread to smaller cities and rural areas, such as the Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke and Lynchburg.
Also troubling is the correlation between the spread of gangs and the proliferation of illegal drugs, specifically methamphetamine (or meth). The increase in meth usage is a serious and growing problem, particularly in Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley as the I-81 corridor has been described as a major route for meth trafficking. The ease with which meth can be produced from common household items and its highly addictive nature have led to the rapid proliferation of meth labs across the United States, including our region.
Not only does meth threaten the lives of those who use it, the increased consumption and production of meth can have severe consequences on our communities. The production of meth leaves behind hazardous waste and does not discriminate between producers and their innocent children, who are often exposed to the waste products. In fact, for every pound of meth produced, five to six pounds of toxic waste are also produced and it can cost up to $150,000 to cleanup meth lab sites.
Congress recognizes the growth of gang activity and drug trafficking and usage in suburban and rural areas and remains active in fighting the spread of violence and illegal activity. With this in mind, the Congress recently passed and the President signed into law important legislation which reauthorizes a state and local law enforcement grant program. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program' supports state and local law enforcement efforts, including drug task forces, gang prevention and prosecution initiatives. Protecting our children and our communities from gang violence and illegal drugs is of utmost importance and this bill will help secure that safety.
This grant program, which was established in 1988, has funded efforts that led to the seizure of 54,000 weapons, the seizure and destruction of 5.5 million grams of meth and the elimination of nearly 9,000 meth labs per year.
I remain committed to reducing violent crimes and protecting our children and our neighborhoods from gang violence and illegal drugs. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program' gives law enforcement officers and prosecutors the resources they need to protect our neighborhoods from gang violence and illegal drugs. Our children and our communities deserve nothing less.