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Crime Fighting Funds Cut

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January 9, 2008

Albany - - The federal government sends money to local law enforcers to help keep you safe. But recently, President Bush signed a spending plan that slashes two-thirds of that grant money. One important program used by all law enforcement agencies in Dougherty County was cut by more than 300 million dollars.

State and local governments seem to be taking financial hits across the board. And Dougherty Finance Director Karen Goff says, less money means finding more creative ways to get the job done. 

It's a part of what helps officers do their job.

"Grants are an extreme benefit to law enforcement," says Dougherty Police Chief Done Cheek.

Without them, there just isn't enough money in most budgets for all of the essentials. Take for instance the state HEAT grant that provided new cars and salaries for officers to hit the roads.

"We've had a reduction in fatalities in the unincorporated parts of the county and a significant reduction in crash injuries," Cheek says.

But what happens when the money washes up? The 2008 federal grants from the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant or JAG is being cut from 520 million to 170 million dollars.

"The Sheriff's department has used the Byrne grant to buy some equipment for their fingerprinting office," Goff says.

That's not all. The Albany Dougherty Drug Unit benefited from the grant.

"It was designed to put patrol intervention in with traditional drug investigations and that's why we've in the past few years have had at least two or three more patrol units, one from each of the agencies assigned," Cheek says.

Even Albany Police received money from the Byrne grant last year to purchase evidence collection equipment. Cheek says agencies have to make sure they don't become dependent on these grants. Because they could be here today, gone tomorrow.

"It's money to augment what we already have rather than say 'I hope I can get enough to supply 15 percent of my budget', its not designed to work that way," he said.

And when extra money isn't allotted in the local budget, often the bill falls on you.

"Hopefully we'd find some other sources besides the taxpayers," Goff said.

Even David Steingraber, President of the National Criminal Justice Association weighed in on the cuts, saying, "A cut to the JAG program is a cut to local law enforcement and victims of crime everywhere." 

Goff says there are other grants out there and she encourages all departments to seek them out. A network of state leaders is pushing to restore JAG funding next year.

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