DTF to continue drug war

Published 1:52 am Friday, January 8, 2016

Dave Harrell and a CCSO deputy look through evidence at a drug bust in July.

Dave Harrell and a CCSO deputy look through evidence at a drug bust in July.

Covington County’s Drug Task Force recently was awarded the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $50,000 to combat illegal drug activity in the county.

This year, the grant did not require a local match.

Last year, Covington County received a $59,769.24 with a required local match of 25 percent for a total of $79,692.33.

In August, local law enforcement officials were unsure if the local DTF would receive funding after the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) announced it would continue to slash funding to DTFs as it has since 2011.

Agencies were expected to face the most devastating blow yet, after ADECA announced it would award the drug agencies only 21.5 percent of the total dollar among they collectively received in 2014.

It was expected that ADECA would only fund 12 task forces.

Last year, the funding payout was in the upper $50Ks.

The county and the cities of Andalusia and Opp also help fund the agency.

District Attorney Walt Merrell said it was a good thing to get the funding.

“It’s always a good thing when law enforcement can work together to on the war on drugs,” he said. “Obviously, drugs are the root of the majority of all of our crimes. The more we can combat drugs, the more we can fight crime.”

Andalusia Police Chief Paul Hudson, who previously worked as a DTF agent, said he was grateful for the continued funding for the drug task force through ADECA.

“We appreciate the work the agents at the DTF do and look forward to continuing our work together,” he said.

Both Merrell and Sheriff Dennis Meeks said the DTF is vital to the community.

“What I think most people overlook, is the way that the narcotics industry works in Covington County or any other county,” Merrell said. “It is organized crime. It knows no geographic boundaries. Just because one guy lives in Andalusia doesn’t mean the drugs that he’s bringing into town aren’t finding their way to Opp or Florala. If we want to effectively combat the heavy, narcotic and drug trade in county, we have to have a multijurisdictional effort.”

Meeks agreed.

“It’s of the ultimate importance,” he said. “We need to fight the drug crime in this county.”

There are four agents on the local DTF – one from Andalusia, one from Opp, and two from the county.