(Washington, D.C.) – At a Senate hearing today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales committed to working with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to help station more federal agents in Southwest Washington to help cut down on smuggling and drug trafficking.
"In Southwest Washington, local law enforcement officials need better access to their federal counterparts, and I'm pleased that Attorney General Gonzales has agreed to work with me to help reduce crime in Southwest Washington," Senator Murray said.
Local law enforcement officials have told Senator Murray that criminals are exploiting a lack of federal agents in Southwest Washington and that local officials need more federal help.
Murray raised those concerns directly with the nation's top law enforcement official today at a hearing of the Senate's Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Gonzales replied that of the hundreds of federal agents in Washington state only 2 are stationed in Vancouver. Gonzales then agreed to work with Senator Murray on the issue.
Murray noted that Clark County is growing dramatically and that while there are many federal agents in Portland, they are unable to assist north of the Columbia River because of jurisdictional boundaries. That leaves Tacoma as the nearest federal office to assist Southwest Washington law enforcement.
"Our local police are left to seek help more than 100 miles away in Tacoma, and they deserve more federal support closer to home," Murray said.
Longview Police Chief Alex Perez said a stronger federal presence in Vancouver is needed.
"The importance of local law enforcement agencies having the ability to work closely with their Federal counterparts has never been more significant. Homeland Security alone demands this. A stronger Federal presence in Vancouver is essential for SW Washington if it is to have effective, efficient law enforcement in these vital areas," Chief Perez said.
Royce Pollard, Mayor of America's Vancouver, praised the development.
"I appreciate the Senator's focus on this critical issue," Mayor Pollard said. "If we are going adequately address regional law enforcement needs we need a greater federal presence in Southwest Washington."
Murray also questioned why the Bush Administration was eliminating the COPS program and Byrne Grants, which Washington state has used to combat Methamphetamine production and use.