Funding Cuts Put Drug Task Force's Future in Jeopardy

Updated: 05/19/2014 10:56 PM
Created: 05/19/2014 10:43 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- A lack of funding in northern Iowa could mean fewer drug dealers behind bars.

Since 1991, the North Central Iowa Narcotics Task Force has made over 6,000 arrests and seized more than 4,400 pounds of marijuana, disrupting or eliminating 17 major drug distribution networks.

But funding for the program has dwindled, and this year officials expect to see a 42 percent reduction from what they received last year.

"Obviously we're going to take a drastic hit and then the people that are really going to win are the drug dealers of north Iowa, not necessarily the good citizens,” said Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals, who also acts as the task force chairman.

Sheriff Pals said while the program has been extremely successful in getting drugs off the street, there soon could be only enough money to fund one officer for the entire nine county area.

"Maybe [we won’t] take on the big kingpins because those cases, to make a conspiracy case on those people that are moving pounds and pounds, is going to take much more man hours to solve,” Sheriff Pals said.

Sheriff Pals said the loss of funding is especially disappointing because of the impact drugs have on crime rates overall.

"We know that drugs are also tied to burglaries and thefts and assaults, and we know that if we can try to do some work against drugs, that we're also going to reduce some of those crimes too,” Sheriff Pals said.

Funding for the task force comes from a grant program with the budget set at both the state and federal level.

Officials with the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force said they do not expect to see a reduction in funding because of a high level of drug activity in the region.

Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals
Photo: ABC 6 News