Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jul 2005
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Decatur Daily
Author: Clyde L. Stancil


MOULTON - At a time when Homeland Security is a priority, Lawrence 
County Sheriff Bryan Hill said he does not understand the logic in 
the federal government's decision to reduce money for fighting drugs.

"They claim drug money is funding terrorism, and here they are 
cutting the people who fight drugs," he said.

Hill was lamenting a 50 percent cut in the grant that funds the 
Lawrence County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. The county 
receives a federal matching grant from the Alabama Department of 
Economic and Community Development.

Last year, ADECA paid 75 percent of the $177,982 grant, which left 
$44,495 for Lawrence County government entities to pay.

The county will again allot about $44,500 in fiscal year 2006, but 
ADECA also will allot about $44,500, meaning the total grant will be 
about $89,000.

Tom Goree, the Justice Assistance Grant program manager for ADECA, 
said ADECA reduced the grant because the federal government reduced 
JAG funding to states by 35 percent to 45 percent.

"A month or two ago they talked about cutting it out completely (next 
year)," Goree said. "Now they are talking about putting some of it back."

This means Lawrence County's three-man task force will become a 
two-man unit. The secretary, who now works part time, will no longer 
work there.

Hill said the Sheriff's Department paid the bulk of the county's 
match, which last year was about $11,000. The district attorney, 
Moulton, Hillsboro, North Courtland and Town Creek paid the rest. 
Now, Hill is not certain if he will be able to fund his portion of 
the grant this year, mainly because of a loss of funding in programs 
such as work release.

Work release funds are decreasing because the circuit judge sentenced 
some defendants, who normally would be in the program, to community 
corrections instead. Community corrections is an alternative to 
prison. Thus, Hill no longer receives a portion of those inmates' 
salaries for their room and meals at the jail.

Community corrections, however, is not the only reason for the 
decline in work release funds.

"A lot more inmates are not eligible for work release due to the 
nature of their crimes," Hill said. "You're dealing with a lot worse 
people than you used to."

The loss of funding will lessen law enforcement's ability to fight 
drugs, Hill said.

Town Creek Police Chief Harold Knighten agrees.

"If you start cutting all this money off police officers on the 
street and the Drug Task Force, it's going to be rough," he said. 
"We're having a hard time as it is. When we had all these officers on 
the street, that's when crime stopped."

Knighten said the Drug Task Force has helped his department make 
significant cases, including five drug distribution cases in the last 
six months.

Normally, law enforcement agencies swap agents to make drug buys in 
areas where no one knows the agents, but Knighten said that will 
become less frequent because ADECA is cutting everyone's budgets.

"I feel the federal government has tunnel vision," he said. "Homeland 
Security is a problem in metropolitan areas, but here in Lawrence 
County, our problem is drugs, not necessarily Homeland Security."
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