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HAZARD, KY -- Drug task forces across Kentucky are facing severe budget restrictions -- and in some cases closure -- after Congress approved a bill last week that will slash the task forces' largest source of funding, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Tuesday edition.
According to the Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association, the bill -- which is expected to be signed this week by President Bush -- cuts $350 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.
The Byrne JAG program, which received $520 million in funding during the 2007 fiscal year, was budgeted only $170 million for 2008 in the bill approved by Congress last week, said Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force and executive director of the Narcotics Officers' Association, reports the newspaper.
The Byrne JAG program, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, emphasizes helping state and local governments combat violence, hold offenders accountable and break the cycle of substance abuse and crime.
Some states use the grant money to fight gangs. In Kentucky, it funds 14 drug task forces. This year, Kentucky received about $2.6 million, Loving said. He said the cuts equate to about a 68 percent decrease in funding. At least four task forces will be forced to close unless they can find another source of money, reports the Herald-Leader.
With one swoop of the pen, Loving said, Bush will "cripple and devastate" drug enforcement in many Kentucky communities.
"Without these task forces, you are not going to have people in many of these areas conducting undercover drug investigations," Loving said. "Uniformed officers may work very diligently but without the time and resources to work on long-term investigations, they are not as successful. They can't get at major traffickers and major drug organizations like these task forces ... can."
Copyright: Lexington Herald-Leader