Federal Funding for Drug Task Force Could Be Cut

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Getting drug dealers off the streets is the goal of drug task forces around the state. Now a grant that goes toward keeping the agencies operating could be eliminated from the 2007 federal budget. It's called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, or Byrne-JAG grant.

The president also tried to terminate funds last year for drug enforcement agencies. Funds were cut by almost 35 percent instead.

Warren County Drug Task Force Director, Tommy Loving, is in Washington this week and had this to say about the grant cuts.

"Another thing we'll be doing while we're here is hopefully educating congress. The people from all the different states including us will be paying visits to the Kentucky delegation tomorrow to let them know how important this funding is to drug task forces."

Jim Devasher, the director of the South Central Kentucky Task Force, says: "Without that Byrne grant it's going to be tough operating and some task forces, frankly, won't survive."

Last year the South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force opened 500 cases in Butler, Logan, and Simpson counties. Something that may not have been possible without funding from the Byrne-JAG grant.

Devasher says: "About 60 percent of our budget is based on the Byrne JAG grant."

He says a recent survey done in six states shows that per one million people, 200 die of drug related causes. That's 5700 people a year, and that's only in six states

Devasher says: "That's substantially more than the number killed in Iraq. We're fighting a war here at home on this ground. Not against Al Qaida particularly but against drug dealers and drugs coming in."

Devasher says if the drug task force were to stop operating other police agencies would never be able to keep up with all the dealers because of all the other crimes they have to deal with too.

Devasher says: "With the Drug Task Force we have one mission and one mission only and that's to apprehend drug dealers and curtail the flow of drugs in our communities."

Something that could prove impossible if the funding is terminated and drug task forces around the country are forced to stop operating.

Devasher says: "Without the Drug Task Force, there's no deterrent."

Last year the bush administration justified its recommendation to eliminate Byrne-JAG grants by arguing the nation's crime rate is at a 30-year low. But the Pennyrile Drug Task Force Director, Cheyenne Albro, released this remark:

"History tells us that a decrease in our commitment to fight the war on drugs today will result increases in drug-related crime and drug addiction tomorrow. Resources used to fight illegal drugs diminished in the early 1990s and the drug use subsequently increased throughout the mid-90s."

There are still several months for congress to decide whether to terminate Byrne-JAG grants. We'll keep you updated on their decision.