|DRUG AGENCY LOW ON FUNDS|
|November 28, 2001 12:00 am|
GOLD BEACH The South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team (SCINT) is the only agency in the area enforcing narcotics laws full time, said Gold Beach Police Chief Bob Rector Monday, but it is running out of funds to continue.
He told members of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) that the passage of Measure 3 did away with SCINTs ability to generate revenue through civil forfeitures.
He said half of SCINTs $350,000 annual budget came from civil forfeiture revenues.
Worse, that half served as matching funds for the federal Byrne grant that provided the other half.
For those unfamiliar with SCINT, Rector said it started in 1988 or 1989. All of the law enforcement agencies in Coos, Curry and western Douglas counties belong to it, and it serves an area of 90,000 people.
Rector said there are about 10 such teams in Oregon, all regionally-based.
At full strength, SCINT has seven full-time narcotics detectives, he said, three from Curry County and four from Coos.
Unfortunately, Rector said, it now has only one from Coos.
The agency is headquartered in Coos Bay, with an administrative staff of three. It has a branch office at the Brookings Police Department.
Rector said in Curry County, the Brookings Police Department, the Curry County Sheriffs Department, and the Oregon State Police each provide a full-time detective.
He said while any police officer may come into a low level narcotics case during a routine traffic stop, for example, only SCINT does narcotics enforcement full time.
As it stands now, however, SCINT will run out of money by summer. Rector said a steering committee of police chiefs and sheriffs is working to identify stable funding.
They are now going out to each member community to ask for help and inform community leaders of the crisis.
Narcotics enforcement is part of the chain of keeping communities healthy, said Rector. Without it, he said, communities would experience more social ills.
Rector said the steering committee has come up with a draft formula for each community to contribute to SCINT based on its population.
By that formula, he said, Brookings already contributes more than its share, including a full-time detective.
He said Gold Beach, on the other hand, does neither and would be asked for $7,000 to $9,000. Port Orford might be asked for half of that.
Rector said alternatives might include forming a special taxing district or trying to survive on donations.
We hope for enough to get through another fiscal year, he said.
Rector said the formula takes in-kind service into account. He credited Sheriff Kent Owens with providing a full- time detective at great pains to his patrol staff.
Rector said communities also help SCINT by serving warrants, making arrests and cataloging evidence.
Billie Hansen, a lay member of LPSCC, asked if the courts could charge post-conviction fees to help support SCINT. Owens said the problem would be trying to collect from people who dont act responsibly in the first place.
The forfeiture law was a godsend to law enforcement, said Owens. Before, it was on the back of the taxpayers.
We seized anything purchased through drug profits, he said. We could even seize before prosecution.
Owens said if the prosecution was unsuccessful, SCINT returned what it had seized, but that wasnt the case with all agencies. The result, he said, was Measure 3, which returned the burden to the taxpayers.
Rector said every community needs SCINT. He said drug problems are tied to population and are experienced everywhere.
Owens said some communities dont think they have a drug problem until detectives work in the area and uncover one.
Barbara Eells, another LPSCC member, said, If there is not a good (narcotics) team out there, other agencies will suffer. Owens said burglaries and domestic assaults rise with drug use.
Curry County Commissioner Lucie La Bont said there might be grant funds somewhere that could help SCINT.
She said it has been hard to find money for public safety, but that may have changed since Sept. 11.