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Drug Task Force Cuts

WATERLOO,  IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Across Iowa, Drug Task Forces are hard at work keeping narcotics off the street, a job that requires manpower and funding. But in a tough economy, agencies nationwide are feeling the pinch - including those task forces.

In the Blackhawk and Bremer county area, the Tri-County Drug Task Force has been receiving federal funding through a law enforcement grant since 1991, and they say it's been helping on the streets. It was just seven short months ago that the task force hit the mother load.

"We had a seizure of over a million dollars of ice methamphetamine," said Lt. Corbin Payne with the task force.

Its regarded as one of the larger busts the agency has ever made. However, funding issues may put operations like this, and others statewide in jeopardy. Recently the grants have been cut little by little, and this most recent cut could have a huge impact - resulting in more drugs on the street.

"Starting July 1, we've already been told we'll probably be decreased anywhere from 42 to 45 percent of our federal funding," Lt. Payne says.

The federal funding, through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, pays for salaries, projects, investigations. It also makes busts - like the Tri-County's task force's BIG ONE last October - possible.

"I think it is going to be a challenge," says Steven Lukan with the Governor's office of drug control policy. "Certainly I think it makes it harder to keep drugs off the streets."

The federal funding usually makes up a majority of the task force budget, with local agencies in the task force coverage area contributing a smaller percentage. With the cuts, these agencies may have to take on a larger piece of the pie.

"If local leaders and local law enforcement really feel this is a priority, there are ways to increase funding from a local level to make up the difference," Lukan says.

Lt. Payne says it will leave police and sheriffs' departments, who have officers who serve on these task forces, with two options.

"Continue to support the drug task force and have a full time officer there, or put them back on the street [on normal patrol]," he says. "I don't think that's the right option, especially with the narcotics we see in this area."

With meth cases on the rise, and drugs like heroin becoming more prevalent, Payne says it's not a risk he wants to take.

Not every agency will see same cut across the board, Lukan says the grant is competitive. Payne says he hopes that will be taken into consideration, with their task force being one of the busiest in the state. Las year alone, they seized more than 3 million dollars in narcotics last year alone.
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