Drug Task Force Cuts Expected
A blow is dealt to Oklahoma's drug fight. Federal grant money currently pays for 22 drug task forces across the state. Congress has passed legislation that will cut that number down to six. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports that could affect the war on drugs in Green Country.
The move impacts small police departments like Bixby and Sand Springs, along with county sheriff's offices and state agencies like the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. All will feel the pinch when the funding drops from $4 million to $1 million. And, citizens will feel it, too because the task forces arrested 2,500 people last year.
One task force drug bust netted more than a thousand marijuana plants that officers say would've been sold on the streets. Other raids, across the state, involved undercover drug buys where veteran agents bought everything from meth to crack to illegal prescription drugs, and then swooped in and made dozens of arrests. Those who work these cases say drugs are a huge problem in Oklahoma.
"It's bad. There's still a need for this. We're still working tips from months ago," said Tulsa Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Darby.
Tulsa County just began its drug task force five months ago. It's a joint effort with Bixby and Sand Springs. Their goal was to make 140 arrests in the first year. They topped that in the first five months, but now because of the cuts, they may have to disband altogether.
"We found that out and we're in a panic. We're really a new task force and haven't seized enough vehicles to fully fund ourselves. That's our goal to get grant money for a few years and then fund ourselves with drug dealers' proceeds," said Tulsa Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Darby.
Some say these cuts will hurt smaller agencies since they depend on the task forces for manpower and expertise. They all agree drugs go hand in hand with other crimes like theft, domestic violence and even murders.
"All these crimes drive down people's property values, cause problems in neighborhoods. A lot of our domestic issues are drug related. I believe if they cut the task forces, we'll see a significant increase in those other crimes that go up," said Tulsa Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Darby.
All the task forces will meet later this month to see if they can convince Oklahoma congressmen to find some funding. If that doesn't work, they'll have to decide which 16 task forces to cut.