By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
ast month, the Bush administration sent Congress its budget proposal for fiscal year 2008. As in years past, the budget proposal included sweeping cuts in law enforcement assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In total, the administration’s proposed budget would slash more than $1.7 billion from existing law enforcement assistance and other anticrime programs. This would represent a 75 percent cut from current estimated funding levels.
The administration did include two new anticrime initiatives, the Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Initiative (VCRPI) and the Byrne Public Safety and Protection Program (BPSP). The proposed funding levels for these new programs did little to offset the massive reductions elsewhere in the budget.
The VCRPI is intended to foster multi-jurisdictional partnerships involving local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to reduce violent crime. The BPSP would consolidate a number of existing programs and fund programs that intend to reduce violent crime, address substance abuse, clean up methamphetamine labs, promote law enforcement information sharing efforts, and improve services to victims of crime.
In addition to the cuts in the Department of Justice programs listed in the table, the administration also proposes reducing funding for critical state, tribal, and local homeland security assistance programs by $570 million dollars. This represents a 35 percent cut of current estimated funding levels.
The IACP is concerned about the proposed cuts in funding for successful programs such as the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Over the years, these assistance programs have given state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies the resources they need to fight crime. The programs also helped achieve the dramatic reduction in U.S. crime rates in the last decade.
The president’s submission of his budget proposal represents the first step in the federal budget process. Next, the House and Senate budget committees will begin drafting the Congressional Budget Resolution, a nonbinding document that serves as a statement of Congress’s budget priorities. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate appropriations committees will begin crafting the 11 annual appropriation bills that fund the federal government.
IACP Supports Gang Prevention Act
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and 18 other senators have introduced the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 456), which would establish new crimes and tougher federal penalties to deter and punish members of illegal street gangs. IACP supports the legislation, which would provide more than $1 billion in funding for gang enforcement, prevention, and intervention programs over five years.
“The FBI reports that violent crime is increasing at its highest rate in 15 years, and many experts attribute this to the increased gang presence in our cities, both large and small,” Feinstein said. “The federal government cannot wait any longer to strengthen its own criminal laws and lend this much-needed hand of assistance to the local agencies battling gang violence.”
The IACP believes that this legislation would help ensure that federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources necessary to fight gang-related crime and violence.
Among other provisions, the bill would make it a federal crime for a member of a criminal street gang to commit, conspire to commit, or attempt a predicate gang crime or to recruit a minor into one of these gangs. The bill would also authorize $100 million over five years to expand crime control grants to state and local governments, and it would create High Intensity Interstate Gang Activity Areas (HIIGAA) and authorize $500 million over five years to support HIIGAA enforcement and prevention activities. ■