Cuts to ALE undermine efforts to protect, prevent abuses, leaders say
Posted August 13, 2013
The state's Alcohol Law Enforcement arm is making some hard choices after state lawmakers cut the agency's budget by 20 percent.
The loss of $1.75 million from a total ALE budget of about $10 million will almost certainly mean reduced inspections of those who sell tobacco, lottery tickets and booze and fewer investigations of suspected gambling operations and other crimes. ALE's 83 field agents have worked with local, state and federal law enforcement to provide a variety of support functions. They recently helped Durham police round up probation violators.
But Jim Gardner, chairman of the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, says the budget cuts mean fewer agents on the street and stretch those who remain too thin.
"They just simply don't have the manpower to handle what's been put on them," he said.
Gardner estimated the cut would cost 20 agent positions of a total 110.
"I think the No. 1 responsibility of government is to protect the people. And the one place you do not want to cut, as far as I'm concerned, pertains to law and order," he said.
Beyond law enforcement, the agency's ability to educate the public about the dangers of controlled substances and run programs such as those that prevent underage drinking will also suffer, Gardner said.
A legislative source told WRAL that lawmakers would like to see ALE focus more on alcohol enforcement and less on other investigative activities.
ALE director Greg Baker issued this statement:
"ALE is most often the only state agency available to assist sheriffs and local law enforcement in the rural counties of North Carolina. The mandated reductions will severely limit ALE in carrying out its mission. The Department is currently assessing the damage caused by the reductions and will endeavor to identify solutions to ensure that ALE is able to continue to execute its mission to the best of its ability."