Bullock Asks Congress to Restore Crime and Drug Enforcement Funds
HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has joined 50 state attorneys general in signing a letter urging Congressional leaders to restore funding to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) Program.
Byrne-JAG funding is the only source of federal funding available to local and state law enforcement for multijurisdictional drug enforcement — including methamphetamine initiatives — and it is also a critical source of funds for drug courts, law enforcement collaboration, gang prevention and prisoner reentry programs.
“If Byrne-JAG funding is not restored, some of the drug task forces that have worked so hard to curb drug trafficking and distribution in Montana may be shut down,” Bullock said. “Congress needs to understand that with the economic downturn and a possible increase in crime due to a weakened economy, these cuts could not come at a worse time.”
“The enforcement of state and federal drug laws in Montana is a much bigger issue than local police and sheriffs’ agencies can handle alone,” said Helena Police Chief Troy McGee, who is chairman of the Missouri River Drug Task Force. “If we see another year of minimal federal assistance, there will be a shift away from the unified efforts that have been so effective for years in Montana.”
In FY 2008, the Byrne-JAG program nationally was cut from $520 million to $170 million — a 67 percent decrease. The attorneys general want fiscal year 2008 funds restored through supplemental appropriations, and adequate funding levels in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
“Drug abuse remains a serious concern for Montana,” Bullock said. “To add to the problems we have with drugs like meth and cocaine, we are seeing a disturbing increase in prescription drug abuse. In the past five years, Montana saw 834 deaths from overdoses of four commonly prescribed prescription drugs. We all must to work together, and the federal government needs to do its part to support drug enforcement.”