Meth task force will have fewer officers

The Mid-Missouri Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force is being reduced to four officers at the end of the year due to a budget cut.

The Missouri Sheriff's Methamphetamine Relief Team, known as MoSMART, funds the task force and handles methamphetamine cases in Pettis, Morgan, Miller, Cooper, Howard and Moniteau counties.

Since 2005, a total of six officers have been cut from the team due to a lack of funding. This is causing a lack of coverage for the counties MoSMART has jurisdiction over and is making the team's job very hard, Detective Sgt. J.D. Williams of MoSMART said.

"There is a huge amount of drug problems in Missouri," he said.

Missouri has been the number one state in the country for methamphetamine labs for six years in a row, Williams said. This is not expected to diminish in the near future, he said.

"There is stuff we just can't take care of now," Williams said.

In addition to policing drug crimes, MoSMART conducts many education programs in the communities within its jurisdiction. The task force works with schools, churches and other organizations in an attempt to educate children about drug use. Some of those programs are going to have to be cut once the task force loses more officers at the end of the year, Williams said.

Members of the task force are meeting with its board of directors, which will decide how to proceed if the program does not get refunded, Williams said. The task force has prepared a brief for Gov. Matt Blunt that will be brought to the state capitol today.

Laurie Police Department Chief Jesse L. Calvin said this cut would be hard on the police departments under MoSMART's jurisdiction.

"We were already short a person. This is going to be very hard," Calvin said.

Calvin said there are several methamphetamine labs in jurisdictions surrounding Laurie, which is located in Morgan County.

The funding issues are causing problems in the departments under MoSMART's jurisdictions and there are no plans to fill the void, Calvin said.

In Boone County, there are two detectives whose primary responsibility is handling drug crimes. These detectives are funded by the county's general budget, not a grant, so there is no concern about these detectives being cut, Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff's Department said. These detectives are part of the Mid-MO Unified Strike Team and Narcotics Group.

Drugs play a large role in Boone County crimes, Reddin said.

"A majority of crimes have some basis with drugs," Reddin said. "Drugs are woven very thickly in the crime world."

The four prevalent drugs in Boone County are cocaine, crack, methamphetamine and marijuana, Reddin said.

The Columbia Police Department has a specialized drug unit, which is funded through the departmental budget. This unit is also part of the Mid-MO Unified Strike Team and Narcotics Group drug task force, Columbia police Sgt. Ken Hammond said.

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