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Drug Task Force funds slashed

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER-Managing editor
The war on terror is financially affecting the funding for the war on drugs in all rural counties in the United States, including Escambia County (Ala.), where the 21st Judicial Drug Task Force could be detrimentally affected.
Smith said that ever since there has been a Drug Task Force, it has received a two-to-one funding match through ADECA. Throughout the last decade, the total grant the force received was $280,000.
Until recently, 75 percent of the funding was aided by federal funds, while 25 percent of the funding was local. Smith said that four agencies contribute to an additional $70,000 for the fund.
Smith said the funding for FY 2005 has decreased to a 50 percent match, meaning the local agencies could likely be putting up $140,000. The president's proposed budget calls for all the funding for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) to be zeroed out for the FY 2006.
County faces meth epidemic
Essentially, Smith said, four county entities that comprise the Drug Task Force will be equally affected by the cut, including county commission, Brewton and Atmore police departments and the district attorney, who all share a fourth of the overhead. The Task Force employs four full time agents, a prosecutor and a full time clerical assistant.
The tremendous burden would include job cuts, and some law enforcement jurisdictions believe the cuts could "leave many citizens at the mercy of illegal drug manufacturers and distributors."
District Attorney Steve Billy said that according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Counties, the number one drug problem for counties across the country is not cocaine, heroin or marijuana, but the abuse of methamphetamine.
What is the purpose of the JAG program?
The funds for JAG are based upon population and crime statistics in each municipality, as well as ensuring each state and territory receive an appropriate share. The grant provides funds for the following programs: