Bush budget may cripple area drug force

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

'Wrong direction'

Local law enforcement officials fear that budget reductions in law enforcement assistance proposed by President Bush will make it harder to fight the war on drugs and deal with other crime.

The President's proposed budget would slash Iowa law enforcement federal funding by two-thirds, or 65 percent. There would be a $17.8 million reduction in federal assistance to fight the proliferation of methamphetamine. That follows a 27 percent reduction over the last three years, according to information from Sen. Tom Harkin's office. Under President Bush's proposed law enforcement budget, program cuts would include:

*The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

*The COPS meth program.

*Byrne Grants used to fund drug enforcement.

*Loss of all funding for 25 drug task forces and more than 70 drug and crime-control projects.

*Loss of funding for the Southeast and South Central Meth Clan Lab Task Forces.

*Elimination of federal assistance for the Meth Anhydrous Ammonia Tank Lock Project.

*Elimination of funding for the Sioux City Regional Training Center.

"It's going to hurt some because we won't be able to use the drug task force," said Sheriff Chuck Eddy. "In the long run it's going to affect all law enforcement in Iowa."

Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser was equally concerned about elimination of the Byrne Grants that help pay for regional and area drug task forces. "That has been just cut and cut and cut over the last several years and now we're going to lose it," Prosser said.

There was some hope that post-911 funding could fill the gaps left by other federal law enforcement assistance cuts, but Prosser said even that funding had taken a 35 percent cut.

"We're moving the wrong direction," Prosser said. "The City of Storm Lake needs help in funding. Grant programs have helped and now they're drying up."

Prosser also offered concern about elimination of the anhydrous lock program and cuts to the Sioux City Regional Training Center, cut from $2 million to $250,000.

"The Tri-State Training Center was a godsend for us," Prosser said.

Eddy said Marvin VanHaaften, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, was currently in Washington lobbying to restore Byrne Grant funding to fight Iowa's meth problem.

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