Task Force Funding Declining

By: Courtney Ann Jackson Email
By: Courtney Ann Jackson Email

Jackson, Miss. The federal public safety grants coming into Mississippi have been whittled from $5 million to $1.9 million. Officials say money is spread way too thin trying to fund drug courts, task force units and other crime fighting programs across the state.

Holmes County Sheriff Willie March says if the budget is busted, law enforcement won't be able to make the drug busts.

"Without that I just don't see how we're going to function," said March.

Money for drug courts, crime fighting in high-crime areas and drug task forces all fall under the same funding umbrella.

"Obviously we'd love to fund everything, but of course, we were cut by the federal government which forced us to decide," said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi department of Public Safety. "We've been funding the task forces for almost 30 years, 28 years."

So, the department of public safety had to go back to the budget drawing board when it got word of the cuts.

"There was a series of meetings between representatives of law enforcement, the courts, victim advocates, prosecutors and the decision was made to fund these programs as opposed to the task forces," Strain said.

Sheriff March has been worried ever since he saw the letter notifying departments of the cuts.

"At least let everybody takes a hit," said March. "Let drug courts take a hit and let us take a hit. And at least try to work together instead of just cut us out."

Because his sheriff's department is small, March says it relies on the area's drug task force to keep the drug problems under control.

"In our area, it's definitely going to open up the floodgates, for lack of a better word," said the sheriff. "You don't have an undercover agent actually out there working drugs; you have a uniform officer."

March says some of the task forces may be able to use local resources.

"It's going to be a struggle to keep the task force afloat," said March. "It's almost impossible. We're going to do the best we can. Maybe hold on three months."

The East Mississippi Drug Task Force is staffed largely through Lauderdale County, something that won't be possible anymore with the drastic cuts.

Lauderdale County administrator, Joe McCraney, says the city and county have fought drugs together for 21 years, and he hopes the city will commit more support for the drug task force in the upcoming budget.

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