Law Enforcement, Crime Victims Programs Funded In Stimulus Package

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009) – A key Senate panel has approved funding for critical federal grant programs to assist state and local law enforcement to combat crime in our neighborhoods, and funding for increased assistance to crime victims.  Earlier this month, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed including the funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The stimulus package approved Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes $2.64 billion for state and local law enforcement, including funding for Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants for crime prevention and prosecution, Byrne Competitive Grants for crime prevention, intervention and prosecution activities, and funding for Rural Drug Enforcement Assistance.  The stimulus plan also includes $1 billion for the Community Orienting Policing Services (COPS) grant program.  Funding awarded to states through the COPS program goes directly to state and local governments to help hire law enforcement officers to provide safer economic conditions in our communities. This past weekend, White House Economic Advisor Lawrence Summers voiced strong support for the law enforcement assistance component of the stimulus, saying, “Saving their jobs is saving jobs, it’s helping the economy, it’s protecting our neighborhoods.”

“American families are struggling in this time of economic stress,” Leahy said.  “It is important that we support the most vulnerable Americans who have been hit the hardest. Victims of crime who are paralyzed by fear, victims of mortgage fraud, and businesses looking to law enforcement to curb crime and vandalism need our help.  We cannot stimulate our economy without protecting and preserving the safety and vitality of our local economies.”

The stimulus package also includes Leahy-backed funding for programs and services to help crime victims, including $100 million for victims’ compensation and assistance to ensure that those already victimized by crime are not also the victims of a struggling economy.  The funding bill contains an additional $300 million dollars in grants for the Office on Violence Against Women, including $250 million for the STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) grant program and $50 million for the Transition Housing Assistance Program, which helps states fund programs to provide safe havens for victims of domestic violence, who find safe housing options shrinking with the growing mortgage and housing crisis.

Another key component of the stimulus package approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee pushed strongly by Leahy is the provision of $75 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud, predatory lending financial fraud, and market manipulation.  The FBI in the last year has received more than 60,000 Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, a number which has doubled in three years, but currently has fewer than 200 agents assigned to investigate these criminal allegations.  The funding included in the stimulus will help the FBI hold accountable those responsible for contributing to our economic crisis.

On Jan. 8, Leahy devoted the first Senate Judiciary hearing of the year to examining how best to help state and local law enforcement officers and agencies during the deepening economic downturn.  Witnesses testified about the importance of federal grant programs, like the Community Orienting Policing Services grant program and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program help state and local law enforcement keep police officers employed and on the streets, protecting our neighborhoods and ensuring the economic vitality of our communities.  The Committee hearing also made clear the need for targeted funds, also included in the Senate stimulus plan, for law enforcement in rural communities which are often particularly hard pressed to find adequate resources to deal with rising crime in tough economic times and to assist victims of crime. 

On Jan. 6, the first bill Leahy introduced this Congress was the Rural Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which aims to help local law enforcement agencies address crime problems that are expected to grow worse with the mounting economic downturn.  On Monday, Leahy introduced the Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act to address the needs of the growing number of domestic violence victims.

Department of Justice Programs that will receive funding in the Committee-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 include:

 State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance: $2.64 billion

o   Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants: $1.5 billion

o   Byrne Competitive Grants: $440 million

o   Rural Drug Enforcement Assistance: $150 million

o   Crime Victims Assistance: $100 million

o   Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program: $50 million

o   Southwest Border/Project Gunrunner: $100 million

o   Tribal Law Enforcement Assistance: $300 million

Community Oriented Policing Services:  $1 billion (for grants to state and local governments to hire additional law enforcement officers)

Office of Violence Against Women: $300 million

o   STOP Formula Grants: $250 million

o   Transitional Housing Assistance Program: $50 million

Federal Bureau of Investigation: $75 million (to investigate mortgage fraud, predatory lending financial fraud, and market manipulation)

Tactical Law Enforcement Wireless Communications: $200 million

Office of the Federal Detention Trustee: $150 million (related to housing federal detainees)

Office of Inspector General: $2 million (for oversight and audit of grants, contracts and programs funded in the stimulus)

United States Marshals Service: $50 million (to implement and enforce the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act) 

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