Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2008 The Huntsville Times
Author: Patricia McCarter
Bookmark: Edward Byrne Memorial
Justice Assistance Grant


Losing Grants Could Harm Local Efforts, Officer Says

With the looming threat of a cut in federal grant dollars earmarked
for the war on drugs, local law enforcement agencies are wondering how
they will do their job with less money.

Leaders in the Madison-Morgan County Strategic Counterdrug Team (STAC)
held a press conference Thursday to warn of the possibility of losing
grants, which could "have a serious impact on our drug-fighting
capabilities," said Huntsville police Lt. Jim Winn.

Aware of the potential cuts in the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice
Assistance Grants, STAC agents Wednesday swept through their
jurisdiction on a series of raids and arrested 21 people, mostly for
cocaine and marijuana possession and distribution.

Winn said the goal was to show the importance of what can be done as a
task force. He said if not properly funded, the team - which
incorporates officers and resources from Huntsville, Madison, Madison
County, Decatur and Morgan County - could have to split up and "we'd
have way less of an impact."

Last year, the 13-member STAC team got $168,000 from the grant. Winn
said unless Congress steps in and passes legislation to restore
funding to the 2006 level, the task force could get half or less than
that this year.

According to Winn, in 2007 the STAC team made 750 arrests; seized more
than 16 kilograms of cocaine, 100 pounds of marijuana and 2,000 hits
of Ecstasy; confiscated 41 guns from suspected drug dealers and gang
members; recovered $600,000 in cash and assets; and dismantled 36
methamphetamine labs.

Huntsville police spokesman Wendell Johnson said the cash and assets
confiscated in drug seizures can be used to pay for equipment,
training or rent, but it cannot be used for agents' salaries.

Huntsville Public Safety Director Rex Reynolds said drug task members
from around the state met Wednesday in Birmingham about the funding
dilemma, and the possibility of encouraging residents to write their
congressmen was discussed.
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