A top state official is calling on congress to restore federal funding for the local war on drugs. Marvin Van Haaften, director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, says for the budgeting year that starts July 1st, Iowa got 42 percent less in federal support for local drug investigations.
With that cut, 27 narcotics enforcement officers would have been laid off in a week but Iowa’s two U.S. Senators had lined up another federal grant to deal with clandestine meth labs and many of those jobs were saved. Still, nine narcotics officers will be laid off July 1st.
Van Haaften says there’s a vote in congress this coming week on next year’s federal funding for such drug-fighting efforts on the state and local level. “However, if the current level of…funding continues that’s being proposed and going to be voted on in the House of Representatives next week, we will only be able to hire 12 narcotics officers next year, which means we will have to lay off 48 narcotics officers on July 1, 2007,” according to Van Haaften.
Most of the drug agents are employed by sheriffs and city police departments and only a handful of state agents get their salaries financed by the federal government. Van Haaften says members of the U.S. House need to consider the latest F-B-I statistics which show the U.S. violent crime rate on the rise and the drug trade can be linked to many of those murders and violent attacks. For the first time in 13 years the U.S. violent crime rate increased, according to that F-B-I report.
“However here in the Midwest violent crime tripled,” Van Haaften says. “That’s not good news…and what we’re seeing is, obviously, the methamphetamine problem.” There’s been a 72 percent reduction in the number of clandestine meth labs found in Iowa because of a new state law that went into effect in May of 2005 which restricts access to the basic ingredients for meth.
But Van Haaften says Mexican drug traffickers are flooding Iowa and other Midwest states with “ice” — a purer and more potent form of meth. “When we’re working narcotics control efforts and battling a foreign nation, so to speak, that’s not the time to cut federal funds,” Van Haaften says. Van Haaften just returned from the National Sheriffs Association convention where this issue was discussed.