A curtailment of federal grants has left state government officials wondering if their new drug enforcement programs may share the fate of drug busts gone sour.
State and local anti-drug programs - begun with such promise just two years ago - could be crippled or even killed unless the federal government provides sufficient money, officials say.It was Congress, in the election-year 1986 anti-drug bill, that urged the states to establish multiyear drug law enforcement programs in order to receive new grant money.
States and localities responded by hiring new police officers, prosecutors and lab technicians, and by having clusters of police forces band together in regional drug operations.
Now state officials are accusing Congress of unashamedly claiming credit for the state-local assistance program and then failing to deliver on the promise to provide sufficient money.
"People feel megadollars are flowing to the states . . . to benefit local programs," said Bruce Feldman, executive director of Pennsylvania's Drug Policy Council. "That's really not the case. We're having to fight that PR battle."
J. David Coldren of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority said, "This is all smoke and mirrors. There's less money per pound of rhetoric than ever before."
"The states are right," said Rep. William J. Hughes, D-N.J., chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime. "We can't have a love affair one year and the next year walk away from the state and local assistance program. We have treated the states shabbily."
Hughes promised to fight for additional funds and blamed the curtailment on the Reagan administration, which has tried to eliminate the program.
The lawmaker said, "We were lucky to hold onto what we had."
Barbara Clay, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, "We believe federal money would be more appropriately spent on federal drug efforts, such as U.S. attorneys, prisons and the Drug Enforcement Administration, where there would be a national impact.
"We believe state and local governments have obligations to increase their own budgets for their own localized activities," Clay said.
According to the Federal Funds Information for States, a project of state legislative and governors' associations, grants distributed under a congressional formula totaled $178.4 million in fiscal 1987, dropped to $55.6 million in fiscal 1988 and made a partial comeback - to $118.8 million - in fiscal 1989.
The gap between the first and third years actually is greater, because in 1987, states could supplement their grant money with an additional $35.5 million in separate justice assistance funds.
For the 1989 fiscal year, the justice assistance program was combined with the state-local grants program, thus eliminating the additional source of funds.
Many states used their first-year money to establish regional police operations in which small- and medium-sized departments banded together to fight drug dealers.
New officers were hired solely for the anti-drug effort, and new equipment, such as surveillance vans, was purchased.
Some states needed to move cases to court faster, and they hired more prosecutors, crime laboratory technicians and lab analysis equipment.
In one of the more novel programs, Illinois established a "lending arsenal," allowing local police to borrow from the state police an array of equipment they couldn't afford to buy.