BENTON -- The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program will continue for another year with a new special drug prosecutor.
Federal funds offered through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy are made available through the HIDTA program to fund assistant prosecutor positions to focus on methamphetamine and other drug cases.
"That grant's been renewed," said Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd. "This is the first renewal for Scott County." The county will receive $46,500 in HIDTA funding this year.
New Madrid County had formerly hosted the program in this area to handle drug cases along the Interstate 55-57 corridors until HIDTA requirements were tightened leaving Scott and Cape Girardeau counties as the only qualified recipients.
In May 2004, Scott County commissioners approved taking responsibility for the program and serving as the host county.
"I agreed to take it over so we would have somebody who was working in this area as a drug prosecutor along with the drug task force," said Boyd. The assistant prosecutor who formerly filled the position, Lora Cooper, left the job at the end of June to practice privately.
"Benjamin Gray has taken the job - he started Oct. 4," Boyd said. While Gray is "still getting his feet wet" in the new position, according to Boyd, he does have experience. "He previously worked as an assistant prosecutor for Cape County."
Before leaving the position, Cooper worked in New Madrid County in addition to working as special drug prosecutor in Scott County.
Cost sharing agreements have again been made with New Madrid and Mississippi counties, according to Boyd.
"He'll be doing any drug cases those prosecutors assign to him," Boyd said. "He is to give at least four days per month to each county and the remaining time during the month will be given to Scott County or any other details in the other counties as needed." While the special prosecutor is supposed to focus on drug cases, he can also help on other cases if there is a need, Boyd said.
Boyd said he formerly served as a HIDTA prosecutor for three and half years. "At that time I was doing anywhere from six to 10 counties," he recalled. Boyd said once Gray settles in to the position, "possibly other counties may want to be involved."
A special drug prosecutor also aids local law enforcement agencies by making sure all intelligence and information regarding drug trafficking in the area is shared, he explained, resulting in the more effective prosecution of drug offenders.
"I think when we have an extra prosecutor working on drug cases, it is a positive thing for all counties involved," Boyd said.