SIKESTON -- Law enforcement agencies, specifically those that fight drugs, are now feeling the pinch of the slumping economy.
The Scott County Sheriff's Department recently learned it will not receive the MoSMART grant, provided by the Missouri Sheriff's Methamphetamine Relief Team. It was one of 17 agencies statewide turned down, including Stoddard and Perry counties.
Also cut for the 2009 fiscal year is the Byrne/JAG federal program, which is the chief funding for drug task forces around the county, according to Sgt. Kevin Glaser, supervisor of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force.
"The current administration in Washington D.C. has reduced funding to this program by 67 percent," said Glaser, noting they are set to take effect July 1. "This equates to over a $4 million loss to the state of Missouri to operate the 26 drug task force units in the state."
The total project cost in 2008 was $240,873 -- 75 percent of which comes from Byrne/JAG and the other 25 percent of contributions from participating agencies. The federal share of funds will drop from about $180,000 for the 2008 fiscal year, to approximately $59,000 for the year beginning July 1.
"But I'm still expected to keep things operating," he said.
Cuts also affected other task forces and agencies around Missouri that were turned down for the MoSMART grant.
"We just didn't have enough money to go around," said Karen Gramlisch, MoSMART executive administrator. Thirty-eight agencies applied for the grant, which covers 100 percent of the cost for a methamphetamine investigator.
Even Gramlisch was hit, when her co-worker was let go to help the grant dollars to go further. Those who approved the grants also looked at other corners to be cut in the applications -- overtime was eliminated, and some agencies that requested funds for two investigators only received one.
Gramlisch said that when determining what agencies would receive funding, they looked at the number of meth labs and chemicals seized, as well as the number of individuals arrested for anything meth-related between October 2007 and 2008. "They looked at who had the most serious problem," she said.
Lt. Jerry Bledsoe of the Scott County Sheriff's Department said their statistics were about what they have been. The department received the same grant in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008, he said. "Probably the biggest reason that we didn't get it this year is not because of our stats, but because the money that was there last year isn't this year," he said.
In all, MoSMART had approximately $1.1 million to distribute this year -- down about $800,000 from the money available in 2009, said Gramlisch. "We are asking Gov.-elect Nixon for emergency funding (to help fill the gap)," she said. If more money is received, the applications will be reviewed again.
Bledsoe said he is in hopes that will happen and the department will receive funding after all. "This happened one other time," he recalled. "But then later they came up with the money and we got it."
Efforts are being made to restore cuts made to Byrne/JAG also, said Glaser. He is in the process of drafting a letter to all the chiefs and sheriffs of agencies served under the SEMO Drug Task Force. It explains the cuts and attempts to have it reinstated. Glaser said that members of Congress have said they will again attempt to get the Byrne/JAG program back in the 2010 budget.
"The key question is how to survive and remain operational until 2010," he said.
There is an effort to have the state contribute money -- just over $3.9 million -- according to Glaser. "In light of the current economic conditions, this will not be easily accomplished," he said. He will encourage other agencies to contact state legislators and the governor to express the importance in keeping the DTF units operational.
Priorities and politics, in addition to less dollars available, are blamed for the cuts in funding. However, information provided by the National Criminal Justice Association, claims that crime rises when people are worried about the economy.
"Crime rises when consumers become pessimistic," it said.
Glaser agreed, and said that over the past two months, he has seen a big spike in activity. "We're seeing a rapid increase, in large part, due to the way the economy is right now," he said. "All law enforcement agencies around the country are seeing a huge spike in crime, both drug-related and other types."
So law enforcement agencies will continue to fight against drugs -- with less dollars and in hope of some help.
"You can't just ignore it," said Bledsoe. "But instead of having one officer primarily designated to just working meth cases, they'll be working more of a variety of drug cases."
Glaser agreed, and said he is continuing to look for ways to provide the same services, but with less money.
He said, however, that more patrol of the United States borders would cut down on a big part of the issue.
"The reality of the situation is that the majority of the drugs that we're looking at and dealing with on a day-to-day basis are all imported," he said. "If the federal end of it would take care of their part and stop the drugs from coming in, that would take away from what comes here and we would be more capable of dealing with local problems."