Cuts mean fewer meth lab busts

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Due to federal budget cuts, the Missouri Sheriff Methamphetamine Action Relief Team (MoSMART), which has been funded for the past seven years, is facing a cut in staff and a blow to the organization's continued fight in the war on meth.

Announcement came earlier this week that the federally funded program has been axed.

The Combined Ozarks Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team (COMET), operated through the Missouri State Highway Patrol, is losing two officers and the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force is losing one as a result of the cuts.

"We still have key personnel in place," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly, who heads up the task force. "We'll still be able to function, although it does make our jobs harder."

Epperly has already lost four deputies and three part-time jailers due to county budget cuts and the failure of a proposed 3/16th-cent tax increase to help fund law enforcement last month.

"It's going to affect us," Epperly said. "The other officers will just have to pick up where the other officer has been cut."

Epperly said his officers are seeing an increase in the number of "shake and bake" labs in and around Barry County.

"We will continue to have this problem until they take pseudoephedrine completely off the market," he said.

The Missouri Public Safety and Corrections Appropriations Committee is reportedly expecting anywhere from $300 million to half a billion dollars cut from that budget, which will impact law enforcement agencies statewide.

MoSMART funded positions have been responsible for approximately 80 percent of the meth busts in the last 10 years, over 17,000 labs statewide.

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