WHAT OTHERS SAY: State must find drug task force funds

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:33 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 21, 2013

When something is working, we need to keep doing it.

That is the case with drug task forces across the state — and in the Ozarks.

The more than two dozen task forces, including the Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team — COMET, have proved invaluable in attacking the menacing drug problems we face, especially regarding meth.

But with the federal government cutting its budget, those task forces face losing nearly half of their federal funding. That is fiscal reality, but the state must step up to make sure that the good work the task forces do continues.

In 2012, that good work included making more than 9,000 arrests in about 21,000 cases in 2012 and busting more than 1,700 meth labs.

The Springfied task force, which covers six counties, made more than 800 arrests and busted more than 100 meth labs.

Those numbers not only prove the value of the task forces but the level of the problem.

A recent case, which involved nine arrests in the local distribution of Mexican meth, points to the reality of the drug — and human — trade in Missouri and the need for every tool possible to address it.

Gov. Jay Nixon has called on state legislators to come up with the $3 million in funds likely to be cut from the federal budget. That is a lot of money for the state to make up, but we encourage our lawmakers to find a way to do it.

It is that important.

For the local task force, it would mean about $350,000 to pay for salaries, overtime and equipment. Task force officers are members of local agencies, supervised by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Those agencies cannot make up the funding, but we encourage each of the county governments to find a way to step up to help even more in light of this fiscal crisis.

Greene and Christian counties already each pay the salary of a COMET detective. The other four counties — Lawrence, Polk, Stone and Webster, as well as the numerous cities that are part of the interagency agreement, benefit from the hard work of the task force just as they supply equipment and benefits.

Without the money, the task force would be decimated, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott has said.

We applaud the governor for recognizing this challenge and stepping up to the plate to ensure that Missouri does not lose this valuable asset.

Now it is time for the legislature also to step up to the plate.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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Mark Flakne February 20, 2013 | 7:15 a.m.

"In 2012, that good work included making more than 9,000 arrests in about 21,000 cases in 2012 and busting more than 1,700 meth labs."

Yet there is just as much meth on the streets, just as many meth-heads roaming Missouri, and 1700 new meth labs, if not more. The drug war is a terrible waste of money that has done NOTHING to curb the drug trade or drug use and addiction.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 20, 2013 | 10:02 a.m.

Why should the state make up the difference in funding? Maybe the counties and agencies involved in the task force should look locally or find grants for those funds, or reduce other expenditures if necessary.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox February 20, 2013 | 11:47 a.m.

How is it "working"? Are there less drugs? Has the price of drugs gone up? Are there less people doing drugs? The answer to all these questions is no. Unless the goal is to cost taxpayers money and take drugs offenders and make them into worse criminals, the drug task force is an unmitigated failure.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 20, 2013 | 5:47 p.m.

The "War on Drugs" injects violence into our society. It's both incredibly costly and counterproductive. It's a monumental failure.

3 out of 4 prisoners worldwide are American prisoners. Over half of those are there for non-violent drug offenses. Roughly half of those are strictly for pot, one of the safest and most benign natural intoxicants known to man.

The whole "War on Drugs" is just bone-jarringly stupid. It costs $Billions of dollars per year. It's nothing more than government-sponsored violence being injected into our society. It doesn't solve any problems, it makes things even worse, not better. Don't believe the hype; these people don't need more money. They need to stop what they are doing now, and go directly after illegal guns instead.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 21, 2013 | 5:35 a.m.

@ Cox and Fogle:

Your points are well made, but you don't say what the alternative would be. The "L" word does not appear in your posts.

Legalization of these substances would create the possibility of further tax revenues, and God and everyone else knows our federal government will NEVER have sufficient revenue. :)

I've never understood why we haven't made prostitution (female or male) nationally legal. Think of the tax revenues! We can even coin a tax category for drugs and prostitution: we'll spell it "syntax."

We've lost the War on Drugs; we've also lost our national moral compass. And drugs are just another case of things our federal government makes a mess of.

(Report Comment)

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