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Wisconsin drug task forces seeing significant budget cuts

Wisconsin drug task forces are seeing significant budget cuts this year, while drug-related arrests increase. Drug task forces are charged with investigating drug trafficking that crosses city and county lines. Last year, nearly 22,000 drug arres...

Wisconsin drug task forces are seeing significant budget cuts this year, while drug-related arrests increase.

Drug task forces are charged with investigating drug trafficking that crosses city and county lines. Last year, nearly 22,000 drug arrests were made, a five year high. But the money for these investigations is drying up at the federal, state and local levels. Eric Larsen of the Eau Claire police department is part of the West Central Drug Task Force. He gets that budgets are tight but says if funding drops much more their operations will suffer.

"Our effectiveness will be reduced because we won't have the human resources that we need to maintain the level of investigation that we have now," he said.

Federal funding for drug task forces in Wisconsin goes through the Office of Justice Assistance. Those federal dollars were cut 17 percent this year and there are proposals to cut another 17 percent next year.

State money for task forces is dwindling too. Kelly Kennedy is a grant manager with the Department of Justice. He says a surcharge added on to court fees goes toward task forces but fewer people are paying the fees, "The revenues have been decreasing and the legislature and governor have been cutting back on those budgets."

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Over the next two years, Wisconsin drug task forces will lose $80,000 or 10 percent of that state funding. Deputy Chief Larsen says that's putting more of a burden on local governments, which are also cutting. A proposal before the Eau Claire County Board would drop $40,000 from Larsen's task force budget. He says all parties need to re-evaluate their priorities because drug crimes will continue no matter how well task forces can respond.

Related Topics: CRIMEPOLICE
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