Law officers to meet with Blunt

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Local law enforcement officers and city officials will be meeting with Congressman Roy Blunt on Thursday afternoon to discuss proposed cuts to the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) grant program.

The meeting with Rep. Blunt was orchestrated by Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle and will take place at 4:30 p.m. at Cassville City Hall.

According to Holle, area agencies including the Barry County Sheriff's Department, the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force, the Cassville Police Department, the McDonald County Sheriff's Department and several other city police departments, will meet with Blunt to voice their concerns over proposed cuts to grant funding.

The Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force depends heavily on the grant funding for its operations.

The 2009 budget presented by President George Bush includes a 68 percent cut in the funding for the Byrne JAG grant program. The presidential budget proposal includes only $200 million for the program, which is down from $900 million in 2002.

Sen. Chris Bond and Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin are proposing to address the funding shortfall by adding an additional $460 million to the program to bring the Byrne grant allocation up to $660 million.

"While our local Missouri sheriffs and police forces have made great strides fighting the scourge of meth, gangs and violent offenders, they need our help," said Bond. "I will do everything I can to get local law enforcement the federal assistance they need to ensure our communities are safe and families protected."

According to a report compiled by the National Criminal Justice Association, task forces supported by the Byrne JAG grant seized over 54,000 weapons and raided more than 9,000 methamphetamine labs in 2004, the year the data was collected.

According to statistics released last week by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri still leads the nation in meth lab seizures. Missouri law enforcement officers busted 1,285 meth labs in 2007. Barry County was the site of 12 meth lab seizures last year.

The Byrne JAG grant is named in honor of Eddie Byrne, a rookie New York City police officer who was shot and killed by hit men hired by a Queens drug lord.

The Feb. 21 meeting with Congressman Blunt is open to the public.

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