- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A coalition that represents dozens of state narcotic officers associations wants Congress to explain what the group calls “massive cuts to critical criminal justice programs” in the fiscal 2008 appropriations bill.

“More than 26,000 Americans die each year as a direct result of drug abuse. Drug abuse and addiction destroys communities, robs children of their hopes and dreams and weakens our economy. Drug sales fuel gangs and are responsible for much of our nation’s violent crime,” said Ronald E. Brooks, president of National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC), which represents 44 state associations with nearly 70,000 drug-enforcement officers.

“Drug trafficking is domestic terrorism and is a chemical attack on American communities,” he said, adding it was “extremely disappointing” and “irresponsible for our nation’s leaders” when Congress cut the programs instead of supporting effective anti-drug initiatives.

The fiscal 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill cuts $350 million, or 67 percent, from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which authorized the awarding of grants to states and local governments to improve the criminal justice system — with emphasis on violent crime and serious offenders — and enforce state and local laws that establish offenses similar to federal drug statutes.

Grants also are used to provide personnel, equipment, training, technical assistance and information systems for more widespread apprehension, prosecution, adjudication, detention and rehabilitation of offenders who violate such laws. Grants also have been used to provide assistance to victims of crime.

Funding for the federal program leverages state and local resources to address the most pressing criminal problems in local areas.

Mr. Brooks, director of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Northern California Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center, said many states support multijurisdictional drug task forces that take down regional and local drug-trafficking organizations including gangs.

Others use the funds for gang task forces, substance-abuse prevention and treatment, crime victim support programs, drug courts, justice information sharing initiatives, sex offender management, community corrections, offender re-entry and juvenile justice programs.

“The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has reported extremely encouraging reductions in illicit drug use, especially among teens,” Mr. Brooks said. “In addition, domestic meth labs are way down, cocaine availability is down, and prices are up.

“All these indicators of progress in our nation’s continuing struggle to prevent drug distribution and use are threatened because of the Draconian cuts to the Byrne JAG program in this Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” he said.

At least 75 percent of every JAG dollar goes to local sheriffs and police departments and the program has been described by both federal and state law-enforcement authorities as highly successful.

Mr. Brooks said state, local and tribal jurisdictions depend on the program to leverage local resources used to fight violence and drugs and that NNOAC is concerned that drastic cuts to the Byrne JAG program will cause multijurisdictional drug task forces to disappear in many states, “giving drug dealers a free pass.”



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