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Safety of families is No. 1 priority for Congress

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Keeping our families and our children safe is our No. 1 priority.

Since I first ran for the Oregon House 10 years ago, crime issues have been a top priority because of significant public safety issues afflicting my mid-Multnomah County district.

Taking on these challenges is key to building strong communities where families and children, such as my two little ones, can thrive.

Over the last decade, I've addressed several major public safety challenges. I helped pass a sweeping anti-meth plan that Governing magazine called the 'nation's strictest.'

As Speaker of the House, I fought to keep sex offenders away from our kids by making it illegal to lure children over the Internet. I led the charge to add 139 state troopers to keep patrols on Oregon highways 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I fought to fund the expansion of the state DNA crime lab in order to erase the backlog and keep the justice system on track.

As a state, we've made great strides here when it comes to protecting our communities, but we need to push for more public safety support on the national level.

That's why I've worked with John Kroger to develop a plan that calls for increased federal support to combat meth, add police to the streets, crack down on sex offenders, and protect victims of violent crime.

Right now in Oregon, meth is threatening our communities and casting a cloud upon the future of our state.

To take it on we need to increase federal resources to prosecute meth producers. I'll fight in Washington to add more federal prosecutors in Oregon and increase the capability of the Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate and arrest drug dealers.

We have to step up enforcement, but locking up drug dealers and shutting down meth labs is only part of the puzzle. I'll also push for investment in proven meth drug treatment programs at the local, state and federal levels and strengthen sentences for property crime and identity theft.

We can only expect law enforcement to effectively protect our communities is if we give them the financial support they need. In order to do that we need to restore the severe cuts in funding for Oregon law enforcement that leaders in Washington have made over the last eight years.

Instead of forcing our highly capable law enforcement officers to do more with less, our proposal will add 50,000 more police officers on America's streets to stem the tide of violent crime.

Another issue we can take on at the federal level is the threat sex offenders pose to our kids on the streets and online.

Too many communities in Oregon and across the country lack the necessary funding to supervise some of the most dangerous sex predators. In Washington, I'll fight for more federal funds for states to help local law enforcement protect children from sex offenders and more officers.

I'll work to expand the National Sex Offender Registry to include e-mail addresses, web sites, and social networking site usernames to stop sex offenders from communicating with our children online.

Keeping our kids and families safe requires effort from all members of the community. I hope that you'll stand with John Kroger and me in calling on our federal government to give law enforcement the support they need.

Jeff Merkley is Speaker of the Oregon House, U.S. Senate Candidate, and a longtime resident of Multnomah County.