Miss. regional drug-fighting groups in limbo over funding

Leaders say they don't know whether

Mississippi's 14 regional narcotics task forces will have enough

money to keep operating when the new budget year starts Monday.

Claiborne County Sheriff Frank Davis said a committee appointed

by Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner George

Phillips has not approved money for the groups.

Claiborne County is part of the North Central Narcotics Task


The task forces attack street-level drug trafficking and

investigate crimes such as homicides and burglaries.

"We went through this same thing last year," Davis said. "As

it stands right now, we have not been funded."

The other counties in the eight-member North Central Narcotics

Task Force are Tunica, Coahoma, Grenada, Holmes, Humphreys, Leflore

and Yazoo.

Four employees of the North Central Task Force, the state's

largest, will be out of work Monday if no money is appropriated by

then, said Holmes County Sheriff Willie March. He questioned why

task force members must wait to learn if they will receive money

from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. About $1 million of the

nearly $3 million grant is to go to the task forces, he said.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Delores Lewis said a

committee is still considering budgets. But Davis said the

committee isn't scheduled to meet again until Oct. 10.

Last year, only the North Central Task Force had to wait for


Davis said the federal government appropriated even more money

for the new budget year than the year that's about to end.

"I can't understand it when you have counties totally depending

on the task force to stop drug dealers," Davis said.

The North Central Narcotics Task Force has worked 400-500 cases

from September 2006 to September 2007, March said.