Prosecutors deal with budget cuts

Sunday, January 13th 2008, 10:18 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

Major cuts in federal justice funding will soon be felt statewide.

Just before the new year, Congress cut millions of dollars from the Justice Assistance Grant program.

Money the Oklahoma County District Attorney and DA's across the state rely on.

"I am very concerned that these J.A.G. funds have been cut potentially harming the strength of our gang prosecution unit which is what we've been working so hard to create this last year," said David Prater, Oklahoma County district attorney.

The funds make up a large portion, up to $1 million, of Prater's yearly budget

"So now we've reached out to Justice Assistance Grants to help us fill holes and gaps that the state legislature's created and now Congress is turning their back on prosecutors," Prater said.

Authorities said law enforcement is suffering too.

Grants fund the Oklahoma City Police Department's Ambassador Program. The ambassadors aren't police officer, but instead serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for downtown Oklahoma City law enforcement, Police Chief Bill Citty said.

"Right now we have enough in our grant budget to fund ambassadors for at least the next year or year-and-a-half," Citty said. "After that we'll just have to wait and see."

District Attorney Prater said his office doesn't have that much time and worries it will be the victims of crime who will have to wait the longest.

"That case load may increase from 275 per lawyer to 325, 300, whatever it may be," Prater said. "That's that much less attention that an assistant DA's going to be spending on your case."