Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Joint Legislative Meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs/Major Counties Sheriffs' Association
February 10, 2006
Thank you, Chief Hurtt.
It's a pleasure to be here today.
OJP values its partnerships with you. All of us recognize the importance of partnerships. No single department or office is able to protect the public, combat terrorism, reduce violence, and support drug enforcement. We all have to work together to achieve these very important goals.
The President's 2007 budget request includes more than $1.2 billion in grant assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies. We realize that funding is down this year. Tough decisions had to be made. However, funding for state and local enforcement is still significant. And it is available for a wide range of law enforcement efforts.
Many of these efforts are overseen by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and I'd like to focus on several of them now.
Violent gun crime and trafficking continue to be significant law enforcement problems across the country. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the cornerstone of the Administration's efforts to fight gun crime and violence on the streets. Under the leadership of President Bush, the Justice Department has pledged that gun crime will mean hard time.
Thanks to PSN, federal gun prosecutions have increased 76 percent. In addition, 93 percent of defendants charged with federal firearms offenses have been convicted and sentenced. Three-quarters of these defendants were sentenced to terms of more than three years.
The President's 2007 budget request includes $165.8 million for PSN and other efforts to fight violent crime. That total includes the highly successful Weed and Seed program, which we are integrating into our PSN program. We also will key off PSN in our work to reduce gang violence.
To protect the public, law enforcement officers also have to be protected.
Last year, the Department adopted new interim requirements for its body armor compliance testing program.
In Fiscal 2005, we also added $10 million to the $23.6 million already available to law enforcement through DOJ's Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program. This additional funding was made available when our research showed that Zylon-based vests could degrade and put law enforcement officers at increased risk.
The Fiscal 2006 enacted funding for BVP was $29.6 million. In his 2007 budget request, the President is asking for $9.8 million to sustain this extremely important program.
Science and technology are improving the effectiveness of law enforcement.
The President's DNA Initiative, which is led by our National Institute of Justice, is helping state and local crime labs eliminate DNA backlogs, and train law enforcement on the collection of DNA evidence.
In 2007, the President has requested $175.6 million to continue his DNA initiative. This funding will allow us to build on our past success, and look at ways to expand the use of DNA to identify missing persons, and to move beyond crimes of violence, to property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft.
Drug-related crime presents many challenges. The President's 2007 budget request for drug enforcement includes $69 million to fund additional drug courts across the country.
An issue that exacts a heavy toll on children is human trafficking. OJP's Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office for Victims of Crime together provide funding for 32 Law Enforcement Task Forces in areas across the country to identify, rescue and provide services to victims of human trafficking.
Half of all trafficking victims are children under the age of 18. These young victims often become the pawns of the sex tourism industry, and they, as President Bush has said, and I quote, "see little of life before they see the worst of life," end quote.
On January 10, President Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This new law, and the $20 million he requested in the 2007 budget, will fund grants to state and local law enforcement to improve programs to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases. An additional $1.5 million requested by the President will be used for grants to state and local governments for victims' services programs for victims of severe forms of trafficking.
Later this year, we'll be adding 10 more task forces to the 32 task forces we have in place to combat trafficking and the many crimes it breeds.
We also have task forces around the country to combat Internet Crimes Against Children. The President is requesting $15.4 million to continue these efforts. The ICAC Task Forces are incredibly effective. And, since 1998 when ICAC was created, the task force operations have led to nearly 6,000 arrests nationwide and to forensic exams of more than 23,000 computers.
I know that I've touched on just a few of the areas where we work together. There are many more that are important, too.
For example, we will continue to work with you to improve homicide investigation capabilities and increase homicide clearance rates; share information; respond to emerging issues, such as preparing for a possible pandemic or bioterror attack; and, foster leadership in law enforcement.
We look forward to continuing to work together so we can build on the progress that we've made together.