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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Federal Budget Cuts May Hurt Programs On Guam
Criminal records, law enforcement program funds at stake

By Armando Cordoba

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 20, 2012) – Federal budget cuts could affect Guam's ability to maintain information about criminals. It also could become more difficult to keep community safety programs up-to-date.

According to the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, the amount of the Edward Byrne Memorial Assistance Grant, which helps fund Guam law enforcement and court programs, has steadily declined as the federal government tackles its $16.32 trillion debt.

In 2007 the Byrne allocation for Guam was $1.13 million. It dropped to $738,950 in fiscal 2012.

The grant is the main source of federal justice funding for state and local jurisdictions, according to the Department of Justice, and it has become crucial for Guam in several priority areas designated by the administration.

In 2011, a large portion of the $920,672 grant went to information systems and technology improvement. About $413,276 was spent on the "Criminal Justice Records Improvement Program."

The reduced grant award will affect many different programs, according to the Judiciary of Guam.

"These cuts mean that a lot of our programs related to the criminal records history program will decrease," said Jacqueline Cruz, the court programs administrator, who said those information systems must be maintained in order to improve public safety.

The money from the Byrne Grant has funded many programs and system improvements, according to Statistics and Plans, but money needs to be spent to maintain those systems, said agency planner Lola E. Leon Guerrero.

Cruz said the reduced funding will affect other agencies as well.

The grant funding has supported: the attorney general's case management system; police records; the prison parole system; and treatment and rehabilitation programs.

The grant also has funded projects by the U.S. ICE Task Force, which has seized 2,574.2 grams of methamphetamine, and the Drug Detector Dog Unit Task Force, which has seized drugs with a street value of $2.3 million, officials said.

The grant money also was used to help law enforcement penetrate nine drug trafficking organizations, according to reports at Statistics and Plans.

If those programs start receiving less money, it could affect public safety, Cruz said.

"Without officers on the street to run a criminal check with a maintained system, their safety, along with the public, is also compromised," Cruz said.

With less and less money flowing into the programs cuts will have to be made, Leon Guerrero said.

Of the $738,950 grant award for FY 2012, the Judiciary of Guam estimates it will cost $320,000 for its computer systems, which leaves $418,950 for other Guam programs.

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