Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jul 2005
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2005 The Kansas City Star
Author: Kevin Murphy and Laura Bauer


Missouri and Kansas officials are trying to save federal funding they say is
crucial in fighting illegal drugs, especially methamphetamine.

President Bush has called for abolishing the $634 million Byrne Grant
program, which finances drug task forces that often focus on meth in rural
and urban areas.

"That's where the meth problem is being fought; that's the trenches," said
Maj. James Keathley, commander of the Missouri Highway Patrol Criminal
Investigation Bureau and president of the Alliance of State Drug Enforcement

A Senate committee has voted to restore almost all the money for programs
that have been funded through Byrne grants. The House has voted to restore
$366 million, or about three-fifths of the money, for Byrne programs.

Keathley said the Byrne program pays for all but a couple of the nearly 30
drug task forces in Missouri.

"If this funding goes away and the public calls to report a meth lab, I
don't know who is going to take it down," Keathley said Tuesday.

Bush's budget proposal also called for deep cuts in the High Intensity Drug
Trafficking Areas program, or HIDTA. The program, which focuses on the most
serious drug areas, would have been cut from $227 million to $100 million.
But the House voted to restore the program, and on Tuesday a Senate
appropriations committee agreed.

Tom Riley, the public affairs director of Bush's Office of National Drug
Control Policy, defended the proposed funding cuts. Riley said HIDTA has
drifted in recent years from its original goal of focusing on major areas of
drug activity. Too many communities sought money because some other
community got it, he said.

"The original vision of the program was that it would be a strategically
managed law enforcement program and not just a revenue-sharing program,"
Riley said.

He said the Byrne program has also become too broad.

"We are trying to put our resources into programs that are focused and
accountable, and there has been a concern for a number of years about focus
in a program like that," Riley said. But, he added, "Congress will allocate
resources as they deem best."

Duane Nichols, administrator of Missouri's HIDTA program, said the cuts
"would be disastrous." There are 28 HIDTA programs across the country.

Keathley said a big cut in Byrne funding would be a major setback,
especially for rural task forces that have limited tax resources. The HIDTA
and Byrne programs pay for narcotics officers, chemists and crime analysts,
he said.

The Jackson County Drug Task force is getting $312,000 in Byrne grant money
this year, which pays for five officers, a chemist and some vehicle
expenses, said task force leader Michael Hand. The task force gets most of
its funding, about $2.5 million, from the county's anti-drug sales tax, he

Law enforcement officials in Kansas have worried about what lawmakers in
Washington might do.

Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton, chairman of the Southeast Kansas Drug
Enforcement Task Force, wrote letters and e-mails to state legislators about
the impact of cuts, especially in the six counties his task force serves.

"It's pretty scary for us right now," Horton said. The task force receives
Byrne and HIDTA funding, and without it, "the likelihood of the task force
continuing would be pretty nil," Horton said.

Last year, the task force accounted for more than 44 percent of the State's
583 meth lab busts. Officers still encounter up to several meth labs a week
and encounter effects of the drug daily, including related crimes such as
burglaries or thefts of anhydrous ammonia, a key ingredient in the recipe.

Larry Welch, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said the state
would be in "dire straits" if federal funds were cut. Though numbers show
lab seizures peaked in 2001 with nearly 900 busts, officers continue to
battle the stimulant.

Missouri had 2,788 seizures of meth labs or materials last year and has led
the nation for the past four years, according to data compiled by the
Highway Patrol. The numbers reflect the problem in the state but also could
be due to a state law that requires local police to report meth lab
enforcement activities, Keathley said. In many states, reporting of lab
busts is voluntary.

Missouri is getting nearly $5 million in HIDTA funds this year and about $9
million in Byrne money, according to state officials.

For fiscal year 2005, Kansas received $3.3 million in federal Justice
Assistance Grants, which are a combination of Byrne funds and block grants,
said Lt. John Eickhorn of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance in
Washington, said too much federal money is going to the states for HIDTA and
Byrne to arrest low-level offenders. Without that money, states would be
forced to focus on treatment programs and major offenders instead, he said.

"As long as states don't have to pay the full cost of the criminal justice
system, they are never going to have to consider reform," Piper said. "I
don't believe the doom-and-gloom hysteria that is emanating from law
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