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Drug enforcement operation a success; demonstrates need for increased federal funding

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Press Release Date: March 20, 2008    || Archived May 23, 2008
On March 5, 2008, the Illinois State Police (ISP) and its 23 sponsored drug enforcement task forces, along with local and county law enforcement, partnered in a one day drug enforcement initiative called Operation Byrne Blitz. The Operation was a statewide crackdown on drug dealers and those wanted on drug-related crimes. It was conducted to draw attention to the work Illinois’ drug task forces do every day, and to highlight the impact of significant federal funding cuts needed to sustain the units. The overall operation included drug purchases by undercover officers assigned to task forces, and the arrest of those wanted on drug-related charges.

Operation Byrne Blitz was part of a national operation in which 41 states participated. The national operation resulted in the arrest of 4,218 drug offenders and the seizure of 666 guns, 105 meth labs, several types of illicit drugs, and the rescue of 228 drug endangered children.

The Illinois operation yielded 183 arrests and the seizure of 153 marijuana plants, 14 pounds of processed marijuana, 150 grams of crack cocaine, 11 grams of powder cocaine, 9 grams of heroin, 217 ecstasy pills, 1 meth lab, 25 guns (3 of which were stolen), and $33,589 in cash. The one day operation reiterates the importance of continued federal funding for this aggressive approach to control the sale and use of illicit drugs in Illinois.

“The Illinois State Police is committed to protecting Illinois communities by enforcing the drug laws of this state,” said ISP Director Larry G. Trent. “The sale and use of illicit drugs has an extremely detrimental impact on the quality of life in any given neighborhood.”

Since 2002, federal funding for state and local drug task forces has fallen. While reductions in crime and drug use rates over the past 10 years have been significant, they have leveled off over the past several years. The majority of the crime rate reductions occurred when federal funding grants were higher. Twenty of the 23 Illinois State Police-sponsored drug task forces receive federal funding. Last year, these 20 drug task forces received 20 percent less federal funding.

The federal funding that supports task forces throughout the nation was named after New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne who was shot and killed by violent drug dealers on February 28, 1988. The murder of the 22-year-old officer shocked the consciousness of the public. The federal funding and Operation Byrne Blitz was named after Officer Byrne to honor his memory.

In Fiscal Year 2004, Illinois’ 20 Byrne-funded drug task forces received a total of $3.5 million. In Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006, they received $2.8 million. Last December, the funding was cut by 67% to $924,000. The majority of federal funding pays for a portion of the salaries of local and county police officers assigned to the drug task forces. With these cuts, the number of officers assigned to the task forces will be significantly reduced. There is currently a supplemental funding bill in Congress to restore the Byrne funding.

Cocaine and heroin are not drugs indigenous to Illinois; they are imported into the United States from other countries. Federal funding is essential because state and local law enforcement have little control over the importation of drugs into this country.

Federal funding is vital to the overall plan of reducing illicit drug use in Illinois communities. All areas supported by the federal Byrne funding, including law enforcement, drug treatment, drug prevention, and drug education, received a 67% cut.

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