Drug task forces falling apart - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Drug task forces falling apart

Posted: Updated:
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The letters were sent out in August and since then, the state's dozen or so drug task forces have been scrambling to find a way to stay in action.

"It's a difficult situation for everybody," said Department of Public Safety spokesman, Warren Strain,

Those agencies are made up of city, county and state levels all working together, exchanging a lot of information to stop drugs from being distributed, sold and used across the state. Those networks are now trying not to fall apart, thanks to funding being cut off.

"We just have to try and use the resources that are available," said Strain.

Strain says the cuts shouldn't have been a surprise. The original federal funding grant was only suppose to last for two years. However, it lasted for seven. Now, Strain says thanks to recent sequestration, time is up and so is most of the money.

"Certainly it's a concern. Anytime any crime fighting component is eliminated," said Strain.

Those grants coming into DPS were cut by more than half, going from $5 million to $1.9 million. Most of that money will be used in other areas such as drug courts. For more rural areas, like Holmes County, already stretched thin financially, loosing the money just may mean loosing it's involvement in the task force.

"It's going to be a struggle to keep the task force afloat. It's almost impossible," said Holmes County Sheriff Willie March.

Some agencies, like the Wayne County Sheriff's Department have already pulled out of the task force completely because they can't afford to be a part of it. That creates a big problem, which is front and center for Governor Phil Bryant who is pushing for increased public safety across the state.

"The drug dealers have a very good network out there. They understand where there's enforcement and where there's not. When they see an opening in Mississippi, it's going to bring them here," said Bryant.

A lot of agencies are now looking to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics to pick up the slack, but MBN director Marshall Fisher says his department's budget can only do so much.

"Do I think we're going to be able to fill in all those gaps, no, I don't. That's an honest answer," said Fisher.

While fisher says he'll do all he can, he shares the same concern as Governor Bryant.

"This kind of word makes it into the drug distribution community. It'll be interpreted as we got free range to do what we want to now in city X, Y or Z over here," said FIsher.

With public safety being Bryant's focus for the upcoming legislative session, he says priorities need to be evaluated and hopes lawmakers can come up with a solution.

"The lack of enforcement will put people in danger. If I had to choose, I would put enforcement first then drug courts and treatment second," said Bryant.

Copyright 2013 WDAM. All rights reserved

  • LOCALLOCALMore>>

  • State auditor's office begins review of Hattiesburg audit

    State auditor's office begins review of Hattiesburg audit

    Monday, July 14 2014 6:46 PM EDT2014-07-14 22:46:49 GMT
    The state auditor's office has begun the process of reviewing the city of Hattiesburg's annual audit, according to spokesperson Brett Kittredge. "There were some serious findings, and that's why theyMore >>
    A letter dated July 11to auditor Stacey Pickering from council president Kim Bradley said the independent review was sought "to verify the audit findings and to determine whether the qualified opinions are merited."More >>
  • National Hot Dog Day attracts Hattiesburg customers

    National Hot Dog Day attracts Hattiesburg customers

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:10 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:10:07 GMT
    Whether you like yours with chili, relish or just plain, hot dogs are an American staple, and they were celebrated today across the country. National Hot Dog Day is celebrated every July 23. Some hotMore >>
    Whether you like yours with chili, relish or just plain, hot dogs are an American staple, and they were celebrated today across the country.More >>
  • Three indicted for federal program fraud

    Three indicted for federal program fraud

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 5:53 PM EDT2014-07-23 21:53:09 GMT
    This is a news release from the Department of Justice Jackson, Miss - Linda Harvey-Irvin, 62, of Jackson, Donald Walton, 51, of Vicksburg, and Markuntala Croom, 45, of Columbia, Mississippi have beenMore >>
    Jackson, Miss - Linda Harvey-Irvin, 62, of Jackson, Donald Walton, 51, of Vicksburg, and Markuntala Croom, 45, of Columbia, Mississippi have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to embezzle money from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Action Agency ("GCCAA"), an organization that receives more than $10,000 in federal funding each year, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp.More >>