The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, a keystone of the...

By JUDI HASSON  |  April 14, 1982
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WASHINGTON -- The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, a keystone of the Nixon administration's anti-crime policy, officially goes out of business Thursday, having spent $8 billion in the last 13 years in the fight against crime.

The agency, an arm of the Justice Department, has been winding down since 1980, when President Carter decided to phase it out of existence. It was created under legislation signed by President Johnson in 1968.

When LEAA finally closes its doors, it will be the end of a decade-long experiment in providing federal money to projects for state and local corrections, courts and law enforcement agencies.

The Reagan administration is still studying whether to fund other LEAA-style projects in fighting crime.

'The concept of LEAA ... massive federal expenditures of the Great Society sort and not spending much time defining the problem is dead,' said associate deputy attorney general Stanley Morris. 'Anything that we come up with would not cost more money than we've currently got.'

Four of LEAA's programs will be folded into other Justice Department offices, including a benefit program that pays $50,000 to survivors of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty, and a drug abuse treatment program.

And it will take another year for some of the agency's grants to run out, according to LEAA official Eugene Dzikiewicz.

The agency leaves a legacy that will continue to be used by other agencies looking for ways to fight the nation's crime problem.

'One of the biggest things it did was help get across that there was a criminal justice system,' said Gwen Holden, deputy director of the National Criminal Justice Association in Washington.

'When you implement programs and allocate dollars, you better think of the impact on another component (of the system). That is a big legacy of that program.'

The Reagan administration has made fighting crime one of its top priorities, but has decided it is time to look for new approaches without spending more money, officials say.

'While LEAA has not lacked for supporters, the Reagan administration feels that new approaches to bolstering the criminal justice system have to be tried,' Deputy Attorney General Edward Schmults said last December in announcing the April 15 demise of the agency.

The agency, a cornerstone of the Nixon administration's anti-crime program, received $7.7 billion during 1969-1980 to fund a wide range of programs from innovative equipment for police departments to procedures to identify and keep track of career criminals. At its peak in 1978, it employed 667 people.

Congress now is considering legislation to fund criminal justice programs, using LEAA's successful projects as potential models.

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