U.S. Panel Restores Anti-Gang Funding
White House Sought To Cut Programs
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page B01
A U.S. House subcommittee yesterday restored more than $100 million in funds for gang prevention programs nationwide, which the White House had sought to cut, and added $18 million to pay for additional federal agents and to launch a National Gang Intelligence Center.
In particular, the White House had targeted nearly $60 million in Juvenile Accountability Block Grants for elimination. The House Appropriations commerce and justice subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), yesterday restored all $60 million to the program. A new program proposed by the White House to replace the block grants was erased.
Meanwhile yesterday, Fairfax County police arrested a second suspect in a machete attack on a 16-year-old last month that police said was gang-related. A 17-year-old Alexandria area youth, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was picked up by detectives when he went for a probation hearing in another case. He was charged with malicious wounding and participating in gang activity.
Hayner R. Flores, 18, of Annandale was the first person charged in the May 10 attack, in which the victim's hands were mutilated and he suffered severe cuts to his head and back. Police said Flores and the 17-year-old are members of Mara Salvatrucha, a Salvadoran street gang with the largest and most violent presence in the region. The victim reportedly was a member of a rival gang, South Side Locos. A third suspect is still being sought.
Wolf has been an advocate in Congress for anti-gang funding for Northern Virginia, though he noted yesterday that the gang problem has extended beyond urban pockets to suburbs and even rural areas throughout the country. "We wanted to give the local [authorities] the necessary resources to deal with this issue," Wolf said. "It is going to require a well-coordinated effort to help protect neighborhoods here in Virginia and across the country."
The Senate now must vote on the same White House proposals and ultimately reach agreement with the House on which programs to fund.
A national group of police chiefs, prosecutors and crime victims had criticized the White House this month for slashing money to programs that reduced gang-related homicides and other violence in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Baton Rouge, La. The group, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, released a study showing that targeting at-risk youths and their families has had tangible effects on crime.
In two Philadelphia police districts where the block grant money was used, youth homicides dropped by 40 percent with aggressive use of probation officers, street mentors and "expedited punishment" to redirect gang members away from violence.
Fight Crime noted that Title V local delinquency prevention grants, offering more anti-gang programs, also were slated for cuts, to $37 million from $79 million. The House subcommittee yesterday restored proposed funding to $80 million.
"This is a great victory in the fight against gangs and gang violence, but more work remains," said Clay Wilkinson, a spokesman for Fight Crime, a nonprofit group based in Washington. "The Senate must also reject these cuts. These programs are proven to pay for themselves. We can pay for them now or pay later. Members of the House have decided to pay now."
Wolf's subcommittee also inserted more than $8 million in funding to hire FBI agents and about $1.75 million to create a National Gang Intelligence Center at the FBI, along with $5 million to hire agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and $3 million to hire federal prosecutors.
Wolf said that he met with gang experts at the FBI and that they suggested creating an office to track gang information nationally. "They'd run it almost the way they've gone after other big issues, like organized crime," Wolf said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company