Pubdate: Sun, 23 Dec 2007
Source: Tucson Citizen (AZ)
Copyright: 2007 Tucson Citizen
Author: Carli Brosseau


Federal funds that help pay for Pima County's anti-drug  task force
were slashed by more than two-thirds when  Congress passed the fiscal
year 2008 omnibus  appropriations bill.

The amount going to the Byrne Memorial Justice  Assistance Grant
program, which received $520 million  last year, dropped to $170
million this year, said Mary  Marshall, spokeswoman for the Arizona
Criminal Justice  Commission.

That means Arizona will likely get about $1.7 million,  compared to
$5.6 million last year, she said. Pima  County will get a fraction of

"It would have a serious impact on our ability to work  as a total law
enforcement community in the fight  against drugs," Pima County
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik  said of the loss, announced last week.

Smaller agencies such as the South Tucson Police  Department likely
would not be able to continue  participation in the Counter Narcotics
Alliance, made  up of 18 Tucson-area, state and federal agencies
working to stem the northward flow of drugs.

Marshall said the fund cut, while harmful, would not  necessarily mean
a staffing cut.

"Because of rollover funding, there will be no really  serious impact
this year," she said.

The state is given a window of three or four years in  which to spend
its allocation, she said.

Arizona has an additional cushion because it mixes the  money it gets
through the federal program with the  state's Enhanced Drug and Gang
Enforcement Account,  from fines paid by drug offenders. Local law
enforcement agencies are asked to match a small  percentage of the
funding, Marshall said.

She cautioned that funds from the state, about 50  percent of the
total, are also in jeopardy.

"Our state is in a fiscal crisis," she said. "State  funds for this
could be part of a fiscal sweep."

The amount of federal funding Arizona will get will be  decided by a
formula made available in the next week or  so, Marshall said.

Then the commission's Drug, Gang and Violent Crime  Committee will
decide how to divide the money among the  state's 16
multijurisdictional task forces, one for  each county and a commercial
traffic group.

Dupnik is one of seven people on the committee.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath