In a sign that Missouri’s growing methamphetamine problem is an issue of national concern, the federal government has awarded more than $3 million in grants to state law enforcement agencies to fight production of the drug.
The money will be divided among 60 sheriff’s departments and drug task forces across the state and used primarily to purchase equipment and to pay existing personnel for additional hours spent fighting meth production.
The grants ranged from $100,000 maximum to the Jasper County and Jefferson County drug task forces to $8,071 for the Macon County Sheriff’s Department.
In the mid-Missouri area, the Mid-Missouri Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force, a group of law enforcement officials who assist area sheriff’s departments to control the production and distribution of meth in the area, received $99,988. Audrain and Moniteau counties received $40,900 and $49,997 respectively.
“The funding that each jurisdiction receives looks small,” said Shana Stribling, a spokeswoman for Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who helped appropriate the federal funds. “But it is significant because many of the departments receiving the money are so small that it will make a big difference.”
Many of the grants are aimed at attempting to overcome a challenge unique to Missouri’s war on meth: The highest concentration of meth labs is in rural areas, where law enforcement is thin and has historically lacked the funding to fight the problem.
Audrain County Sheriff Stuart Miller said the money his department received would be allocated to the Mid-Missouri Task Force, where it would primarily be used to pay overtime to officers needed to conduct surveillance and cleanup of meth labs in off duty hours.
Fighting meth is an expensive proposition, Stribling said. Many of the components used to make the drug are highly volatile, and law enforcement agents need special training and equipment to safely dismantle the labs and dispose of the contents. The supplies and equipment needed — like special gloves and chemical containers — can only be used once before they have to be discarded.
The grants come from the U.S. Department of Justice. When drafting the Justice Department’s budget, lawmakers can earmark funds for law enforcement initiatives such as fighting meth. Bond is pushing for another round of funding totaling $2.53 million next year, Stribling said.
“I really appreciate what Sen. Bond has done for sheriff’s departments and drug task forces in the state of Missouri,” Miller said. “The money has been very helpful for us.”