Press Releases

Senator Feinstein Calls for Restoring Byrne Justice Assistance Grants For State and Local Law Enforcement

-Programs funds broad range of crime-fighting efforts in California-

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today joined with Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to call for restoring nearly $490 million to the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. This program provides critical funding to state and local law-enforcement efforts, including drug and gang task forces and victim assistance.

Last year the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill included $660 million for the Byrne Grant program for FY 2008. But after the President’s veto threat, this funding was slashed by 70 percent, to $170 million, in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

For California, this means California’s Byrne Grants will be cut to less than $11 million this year, down from $33 million.

“Let me tell you what it means for my state, a big state with 37 million people,” Senator Feinstein said. “Fifty drug and gang task forces around my state may go out of business. Slashing the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program is unacceptable to me, and to the people of California.

“This program is a pillar of law enforcement in California. It funds a broad range of law-enforcement programs, from drug and gang task forces, to programs that assist victims of crime, including children. I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that this funding is restored.”

In California last year, Byrne Grants funded drug and gang task forces that:

  • Arrested 14,860 offenders, 8,900 of whom had drug and violent crime convictions;
  • Seized 2,130 weapons and $18 million in currency; and
  • Rescued 1,482 children from the scenes of narcotics crimes, including meth labs.

Byrne Grants also helped fund California’s Marijuana Suppression Program, which last year arrested 533 offenders – 353 of whom were convicted of marijuana-related charges – and seized nearly 400 weapons and more than $4.5 million in currency and assets.

For more than 20 years, grants from the Byrne Justice Assistance program and its predecessor programs have funded state and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs.

The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne Grants program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties.

Senator Feinstein is a long-time supporter of the Byrne Grant program. Last year, the Senate approved legislation – authored by Senators Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to reauthorize the program, at more than $1 billion, through FY 2012,

The program was named after New York Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.