Drug task force receives anti-meth funds

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force, headquartered in Barry County, is one of 35 agencies in Missouri that will receive federal anti-methamphetamine funding.

The regional task force, which now partners with the Northwest Arkansas Drug Task Force in Carroll County, has been awarded a $158,475.20 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant, known as a JAG grant.

"Without this grant, we wouldn't be able to continue to fight the meth problem," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly.

According to Epperly, the grant pays the salaries of task force investigators and funds other day-to-day operational costs. Currently, the task force employs five full-time investigators.

The Southwest Drug Task Force also receives funding assistance from Barry County, McDonald County and the City of Cassville and other municipalities. Clif Boyer serves as task force director.

Missouri law enforcement agencies will share the $5.6 million in federal funding awarded to Missouri. All components of the criminal justice system, including crime investigation, justice information sharing initiatives, drug and gang task forces and domestic violence programs, will be supported by the grant.

"In order to tackle Missouri's drug problem, we must channel our energies and assets into key anti-drug efforts and bolstering resources for law enforcement," said Missouri Governor Matt Blunt in announcing the grant awards on May 24. "The safety of our communities relies on vigilant law enforcement to fight meth and other drugs that destroy Missouri families."

The grant funds are provided through the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and are administered by the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

During 2006, law enforcement officials throughout the state responded to, seized or investigated 1,284 laboratory incidents, dumpsites and operational meth labs. In 2005, that number stood at 2,252.

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