IGNACIO, Colo. (AP) – Some 150 American Indian tribes are getting a share of nearly $120 million in federal funds to improve safety on reservations, according to a Justice Department announcement Wednesday.

The grants were awarded under a new streamlined system and are intended to help tribes deal with soaring crime rates and issues of justice and enforcement, said Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli at the Four Corners Indian Country Conference in Ignacio.

Violent crime rates on Indian reservations are more than twice the national rate, and there is an epidemic of domestic and sexual violence in Indian Country, along with high instances of child abuse, teen suicide and substance abuse, according to the federal government.

Federal officials have also said there is a proliferation of gang activity on reservations, and yet law enforcement recruitment and retention efforts across Indian Country lag far behind the rest of the nation.

“By deepening our engagement with tribal governments, we have sought to help put an end to the unacceptable and sobering crime rates witnessed in Indian Country,” Perrelli said according to prepared remarks.

The $118.4 million in grant money is meant to help tribes with community policing, methamphetamine enforcement, justice systems, alcohol and substance abuse, and corrections and correctional alternatives, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The grants are also planned to help fund programs to prevent violence against women, elder abuse, and provide youth programs.

The new system for awarding grants, the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, was developed last year after tribal leaders complained the DOJ’s process was too cumbersome.

The Justice Department has spent years deputizing non-tribal law enforcement agencies to help respond to crimes that put a strain on small tribal police departments on sprawling reservations.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed into law the Tribal Law and Order Act that gives tribes more authority to combat crime on reservations. One of the most substantial changes under the act was increased sentencing authority from one year to three years.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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