Missouri has 27 multi-agency drug task forces at work. Each one requires public funding to operate.
While the need for this vital work is seemingly unending, federal funding to supplement local tax support has been in decline. Funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, or JAG, have declined about 40 percent since 2005 and will be cut about $3 million statewide this year.
Gov. Jay Nixon is on solid ground in proposing to pump $3 million in state money into the drug task forces to offset the federal cuts. Our only hesitation in giving this our full support is the lack of detail on how that money might be used to boost the fight against drug crimes.
In our region, two multi-agency teams stand to benefit.
The Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation, or NITRO, has felt the double whammy of cuts in JAG funding and the ending of federal economic stimulus funding. Agencies across 16 counties would gain from additional state support.
Locally, the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force has suffered similar cuts. The strike force — a partnership of the county, the city of St. Joseph and the Missouri State Highway Patrol — is able to deploy fewer officers to the drug fight than in the past because of lost positions.
It’s important to note the governor’s strong focus on methamphetamine abuse. More than 1,700 meth labs were busted up by agents in 2011 and 2012. We’re convinced many more are out there.
Veteran law officers are quick to point out that drug dealers and abusers rarely engage in just one vice. The ravages of meth abuse are reason enough to target meth, but it’s also true that taking meth peddlers off the streets will help in the attack on other drug crimes and on related offenses such as residential burglaries.
With a few more specifics about how the $3 million would be distributed, this is a funding proposal that deserves a high priority in the current legislative session.