Washington, D.C. – To help put more police in communities across New York affected by rising rates of violent crime, drug trafficking and gang activity, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to put greater emphasis on COPS Hiring Program grants for New York State. The Police Hiring Grants program authorizes $500 million per year – enough to hire up to 50,000 officers across the country for community policing.
“Law enforcement agencies across New York have been squeezed by budget cuts, forced to lay off critical personnel, and reduce key crime prevention programs,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We need to arm our local law enforcement with the resources they need to put more cops on the beat where we need them most. Protecting our families and communities is the highest priority of our law enforcement professionals.”
Created in the 1994 Crime Bill, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has funded more than 120,000 community police officers in over 12,900 law enforcement agencies. The COPS program has been credited by many criminologists as an important factor in driving down crime, and it directly creates jobs and helps local governments weather the economic downturn. The COPS Office was reauthorized as part of the Department of Justice reauthorization in the 109th Congress, yet funding for the COPS program has been decimated in recent years.
Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Attorney General Holder:
Dear Attorney General Holder,
As the Department of Justice prepares to once again provide assistance to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States by issuing COPS Hiring Program grants, I am writing to urge you to ensure that special attention is given to communities that have been affected by violent crime, drug trafficking and gang activity.
I appreciate your commitment to assisting New York’s law enforcement community during this challenging economic time. Last year, my state received a total of approximately $10.7 million in a variety of COPS grants, however, only $1.65 million went to the hiring and retention of community police officers. As you know, New Yorkers, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area, the suburban communities of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and cities such as Newburgh and others upstate, have faced a disturbing trend of gang violence over the past few years.
At the same time, New Yorkers continue to face significant budget constraints, forcing many communities to reduce their municipal workforce, including public safety officers. The devastation caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and the costs of recovery, will further exacerbate already strained budgets.
In light of these challenges, I believe that federal assistance is necessary to ensure that police departments have the resources that they need to put an end to gang violence, get illegal drugs off the streets, and ensure New Yorkers can feel safe in their neighborhoods. I encourage you to consider increasing the amount of funding that goes towards COPS Hiring grants for these communities this fiscal year.
Thank you for your continued leadership, and I hope that you will give this request your highest consideration.