Sequestration leads to funding cuts for drug task forces - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Sequestration leads to funding cuts for drug task forces

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Bust our budget and we won't be able to make the drug busts. That's the message Holmes County Sheriff Willie March is spreading. Bust our budget and we won't be able to make the drug busts. That's the message Holmes County Sheriff Willie March is spreading.
DPS had to go back to the budget drawing board when they got word of the cuts. DPS had to go back to the budget drawing board when they got word of the cuts.
HOLMES COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

There are 13 drug task force teams across the state, but funding cuts may leave their budgets bare.

These cuts are a result of sequestration. The federal public safety grants coming into Mississippi were cut by over half -- from $5 million to $1.9 million.

Bust our budget and we won't be able to make the drug busts. That's the message Holmes County Sheriff Willie March is spreading.

"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. We've been funding the task forces for almost 30 years, 28 years," said Warren Strain with the Department of Public Safety.

So, DPS had to go back to the budget drawing board when they 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," explained Strain.

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

"At least let everybody take a hit. 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," argued March.

Because his sheriff's department is small, he says they rely 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. You don't have an undercover agent actually out there working drugs, you have a uniform officer," said March.

Sheriff March says some of the task forces may be able to use local resources but they just aren't there for his agency.

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

The Department of Public Safety says that while the cuts leave gaps, there are other resources like the Bureau of Narcotics that can be used to fill the void.

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