Friday, March 7, 2008

Low-Budget Drama

In an American Journal article about a rash of drug-related arrests in Westbrook, Chief Bill Baker explained the 30 warrants and the seven drug-related arrests in Westbrook were the result of inter-agency cooperation and citizens dedicated to reducing drug-related crime in Westbrook. That's true.

But it was also part of a nationwide bureaucratic struggle between drug-fighters and the federal bureaucrats who fund them.

According to these Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald articles, the arrests were part of a 24-hour nationwide drug-bust blitz designed to highlight the impact of drug enforcement agencies as a way to fight proposed cuts in federal funding. The stings were part of Operation Byrne Blitz (in reference to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant that funds interagency efforts) and they yielded 91 arrests in Maine alone from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning.

According to the pieces, the Byrne Justice program's funds were cut 67% for fiscal year 2008, and Maine's share of the money will be reduced from $1.7 million to $630,000. Consequently, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) says it will have to cut 13 MDEA agents and 6 drug prosecutors from the MDEA's payroll.

- John C.L. Morgan

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