Tester Joins Billings Law Enforcement to Combat Rising Crime and Drug Use in Montana
Senator Introduces Bill to Help Keep Drugs Out of Montana Communities
(Billings, Mont.) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester joined Billings law enforcement officers, health care experts, and community leaders today to announce new legislation that will combat rising crime and drug use in Montana.
Tester's Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act will reauthorize and increase funding for three critical grant initiatives that have a proven record of helping local law enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officers keep drugs out of Montana communities and reduce drug-related crimes. Tester is introducing this legislation following a roundtable last December, where Billings Police Chief Rich St. John told Tester that meth trafficking and use fuels many of the violent crimes that his police force responds to.
"Drugs can destroy lives, tear families apart, spur crime, make our streets less safe, and derail promising futures," Tester said. "This bill will help raise awareness about the risks of drug abuse and keep drugs out of our most vulnerable communities. I'm taking my cues from the police and sheriff's departments and I am fighting to ensure they have the tools they need to keep us safe every day."
Tester also addressed the National Debt, noting he voted against a recent bill that added $2.4 trillion to the national debt to pay for tax giveaways to the wealthiest people and corporations in America.
"Our country can't afford giveaways to the folks who need it least," Tester said. "I'm focused on the folks and places who need it the most, like the cops and Customs Protection officers who protect our communities."
The ANTI Drugs Act will reauthorize and strengthen three grant initiatives:
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Grants
HIDTA grants fund regional task forces made up of local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat the drug epidemic in Montana communities. The Billings Police Department leads the Eastern Montana HIDTA Task Force, and is one of five HIDTA Task Forces in Montana. The Eastern Montana HIDTA Task Force includes the Billings Police Department and the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, as well as federal law enforcement agencies that include the U.S. Marshall's Service, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Tester secured $280 million for HIDTA Grants in the federal funding bill last month.
Tester's ANTI Drugs Act would extend the current authorization of the HITDA grant program through 2023 and would increase funding to $300 million annually.
Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grants
COPS grants provide local police departments with the resources needed to expand community policing, allowing police officers to develop strong relationships with local residents and leaders. COPS Grants were established in 1994 by the U.S. Department of Justice. Tester secured $275 million for COPS Grants in the federal funding bill last month.
Tester's ANTI Drugs Act would reauthorize the COPS grants initiative for another five years and increase its funding to $400 million annually.
Operation Stonegarden Grants
Operation Stonegarden Grants provide resources to local, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to intercept illegal drugs while defending our borders. In 2017, Tester secured more than $1 million in Operation Stonegarden Grants for 14 law enforcement agencies across Montana. As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester secured $85 million for Operation Stonegarden Grants in the federal funding bill last month, a $30 million increase over last year.
Tester's ANTI Drugs Act would increase funding for Operation Stonegarden Grants to $110 million annually.
"This bill is certainly welcome and exciting news for all law enforcement," said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John. "We are very thankful for this support and we'll continue on with the good work."
"We have nothing but gratitude for the hard work that Senator Tester and his staff have done to not only promote overall health care for the state of Montana, but to really focus on substance use disorders, addiction, and mental health care," said Christi Beals, Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Director of Inpatient Services at the Rimrock Foundation. "Investing in treatment and prevention is the number one way we can combat substance abuse."
"These resources are critical and they mean so much to our communities," said Lisa Harmon, Minister at Billings First Congregational Church and former Executive Director of the Billings Downtown Alliance. "Without these funds, we can't do our good work. Thank you Senator Tester for your leadership."
Tester also used his position as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee last month to secure significant national security wins for Montana in the federal budget bill:
- $7.6 million to hire 328 new Customs and Border Protection officers at our ports of entry to crack down on illegal drugs, like opioids and meth, that are entering our country.
- $225 million to install new technologies along the border that will detect drugs at our ports of entry.
- An additional $20 million for Byrne JAG Grants so state and local law enforcement departments can initiate new crime prevention measures.
- $1.5 billion for State Targeted Response Grants to help curb opioid abuse.
- $100 million to help children impacted by parental substance abuse-including drug addicted babies.
- $1.8 billion for substance abuse prevention and treatment to help folks overcome their addiction.
- $330 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Funds that help fund drug and treatment courts, substance abuse treatment for prison inmates, and prescription drug monitoring.
- $1.5 billion for the State Targeted Response Grants to help combat opioid abuse
- $100 million in new funding for helping children affected by parental substance abuse, including drug-addicted babies.