Fighting drugs

Thursday, July 28, 2005

One of the targets of the Bush administration's cost-cutting effort is the federal program that provided $634 million to drug task forces across the nation in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

A portion of that money went to drug task forces in Southeast Missouri: $200,000 to the 10-county SEMO Drug Task Force, and $140,000 to the Bootheel Drug Task Force.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau and Missouri's two U.S. senators, Kit Bond and Jim Talent, are among those who have been successful in preventing -- so far -- proposed cuts in federal funding for drug task forces. But the administration is proposing elimination of the funding. Without those federal dollars, say local law enforcement officials, the task forces will have to shut down their operations.

If that happens, Southeast Missouri would lose its most effective resource in combating illegal drugs. Twenty-seven agencies contribute resources, including manpower, to the SEMO Drug Task Force. In 2004, the task force investigated 655 drug cases and made 436 arrests.

Without the task force's intervention, illegal drugs with a value of $6.6 million would have reached dealers, pushers and users on streets in Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and other area towns.

One of the biggest drug problems in this area and nationally is methamphetamine, which is made from locally available ingredients in easy-to-hide labs. Thanks to the drug task force, 87 of those labs were seized or recovered in 2004.

Since the SEMO Drug Task Force was started in 1990, it has handled 5,738 cases and made 4,678 arrests.

Federal legislators who control how tax dollars are spent have an opportunity, through funding aimed at fighting illegal drug activity, to make a major impact.

Statistics like those at the SEMO Drug Task Force are being repeated in every state. Protecting citizens from the scourge of illegal drugs is worthy of serious funding consideration.

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