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Web links public to task force

Friday, June 28, 2002

"In some way or another, every crime is linked to drugs." - Tim Trowberidge

HAYTI -- The Bootheel Drug Task Force has created a new Web site to increase public awareness of the task force, and at the same time, educate the public about the area's drug problem.

"We're just getting started," BDTF Agent Tim Trowberidge said. "It's been up about two weeks now. We have a lot of different things that we're thinking about putting on our Web site."

The drug problem in the Bootheel is huge, Trowberidge said. Ten years ago it was marijuana, and now the big problem is meth, he said. Last year, the BDTF arrested 300 individuals on drug charges, he added.

"When you think about it," Trowerbridge continued, "in some way or another, every crime is linked to drugs. Whether they're stealing the drugs or taking them, there's a connection."

Some of the topics found on the Web site include drug definitions, tips on what to do if there is a suspicion that someone is cooking methamphetamine, a "Most Wanted" section and links to drug and alcohol prevention sites.

One unique aspect of the Web site is its photographs. It actually shows what drugs such as meth, cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana look like, as well as clandestine drug labs. Trowberidge said the pictures can educate the public, which could ultimately help themselves and the police.

"A lot of people don't know what to look for," Trowberidge said. "The average person doesn't even know what a marijuana plant looks like. If a parent views the site, it can only help."

Trowberidge continued: "For example, if the parent finds ecstasy in their child's room, they'll know exactly what it is or if they find drug paraphernalia, then they'll put the pieces together."

By providing the task force's e-mail address on the Web site, it's possible for the public to ask questions about drug-related issues or even to report suspected illegal drug activity, BDTF Supervising Agent Randy Stone said.

The BDTF encourages the public to report any suspicions because they need help from the public, Trowberidge said. "We've already received several e-mail tips that have led to arrests. The phone calls and e-mails are completely confidential, Trowberidge said. Any tips we get, we have to follow up on.

"We wish everybody would visit our Web site," Trowberidge said. "Just call and let us know of any information you have. It might help us."

Participating agencies of the BDTF are Dunklin and Pemiscot Sheriff's Departments and the Kennett and Caruthersville Police Departments. A participating agency supplies one officer to work on the BDTF. Supporting agencies are the cities of Malden, Steele and Campbell. They provide funding for some of the BDTF's projects.

Future plans for the Web site are still being considered, and they would eventually like to add daily criminal cases to the site, Stone said. "We hope to add more information soon and to post more photos from area cases. We also will be placing more people on the 'Most Wanted' page," he said. Currently, one person is on the "Most Wanted" page.

"If anything," Trowberidge said, "by viewing this site, people will learn the signs of a meth lab and see what drugs are."

The Bootheel Drug Task Force Web site is accessible at www.bootheeldtf.com.