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DTF releases latest statistics

The 21st Judicial Drug Task Force made 374 arrests between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010 — a rate of just more than one per day.
But as quickly as officers are tracking the problem, new cases are cropping up, said Mike Lambert, chief deputy with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department.
The task force seized nearly $10,000 worth of cocaine, $5,100 worth of crack cocaine, more than $20,000 worth of marijuana and 6,358 pills, Lambert said.
The statistics show that the drug problem is growing across the board, but two specific types — prescription drugs and crystal methamphetamine — seem to be on the rise the fastest, he said.
“Every one of them is growing,” Lambert said. “But pills and meth have exploded.”
In just the past few weeks, officers with the task force made arrests associated with the discovery of three separate meth lab cases, including one man who was on probation from Florida and was allegedly busted with four meth labs in a home in Flomaton.
Officers have also made several busts over the past year associated with individuals illegally possessing or distributing prescription drugs. Those cases can be harder to track, Lambert said, because sometimes a suspect has a prescription for the narcotics.
“In that case, it’s not illegal for them to possess it, but it’s illegal for them to distribute it,” he said.
Lambert, who previously worked as a drug task force officer, said he and his colleagues are seeing familiar faces as they continue to work cases.
“When I was on the drug task force full-time, there was a group of guys that we got and put in jail, but there was another group waiting to take their place,” he said. “Now we’ve got them in jail, but the guys we put in are getting out. It’s just a revolving door.”
The task force has also been hampered in the past two years by cuts in federal funding.
“Every year, we’ve either received level funding or less than in previous years,” Lambert said. “This year we took a really big cut, but we’ve continued to hold our own.”
The task force took more than a 50 percent cut in federal funds last year alone.
But seized vehicles and cash do help add to the task force’s budget, Lambert said. The task force seized 31 weapons with a value of nearly $9,000; 14 vehicles with a value of $97,500; and $26,534 in cash.
“All of these vehicles we’re seizing we’re selling and auctioning off,” Lambert said.