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DEA director visits Platte County

by Kim Fickett
Landmark editor

In a roundtable discussion held in Platte City on Friday morning, Congressman Sam Graves and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Director Asa Hutchison, heard from area law and drug enforcement officers about their local concerns on the war on drugs.

"The fiercest battles in the war on drugs are right here in Missouri," said Graves. "To our south, Independence still reigns as the city with the most meth problems. However, rural communities and country roads are not immune to the growing drug trade. Throughout our rural areas, drug dealers are cooking their dangerous concoctions and selling them to our children."

Graves and Hutchison were joined by representatives from Platte and Buchanan counties Drug Task Force, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks, Platte City Police Chief Bill Massock, Platte County Sheriff Dick Anderson and representatives from HITDA.

"This meeting was a perfect opportunity for the people in Washington to hear the problems we're having here in Missouri. We have a problem with the war on drugs also, and the discussion was a great opportunity for Asa to hear those first hand," said Graves.

Graves continued about the real effect the Kansas City metropolitan area has seen because of some major roadways through the area.

"Three major drug trafficking Interstates converge in the Kansas City area," said Graves. "Those interstates act like a pipeline for these terrible drugs. I hope by raising awareness and providing local law enforcement the tools and funding they need we can guard against these dangerous drugs."

Before the meeting was opened up to a roundtable discussion, Hutchison addressed the area representatives in attendance.

"The DEA wants to be a strong partner in the war on drugs," stated Hutchison. According to Hutchison some main areas of focus in the war on drugs include methamphetamine and Ectasy.

One way Hutchison said the DEA is working towards that goal is by filling a void that is being vacated in the war on drugs.

"400 FBI agents are being pulled from the war on drugs fight to target terrorism," said Hutchison. "While I think the FBI is making the right decision to focus all of their efforts on terrorism, the DEA is going to work hard to fill that gap being vacated."

Hutchison congratulated law enforcement efforts on the war on drugs in Missouri. According to Hutchison so far Missouri law enforcement has seized 2,100 labs.

"Law enforcement is doing a great job seizing labs here in Missouri," said Hutchison. "It's important to reaffirm to our local law enforcement how important our role is in the international role of Missouri."

"The enforcement side will always be essential in the war on drugs. We can never escape the effects of enforcement," continued Hutchison. "Statistics are showing that the purity of drugs is down by nine percent. That means the drug manufacturers are having a problem; which is a small victory for enforcement when we have impacted that availability."

Once the meeting was opened up to discussion, there were many areas of concerns raised to Hutchison.

According to Graves some of the key points developed at the meeting include the limitations on grant programs in the fight on the war on drugs.
"A lot of times the grants from the federal government are limited two to three years and then law enforcement is relying on the county to respond when that funding is cut off and many times the county isn't able to provide that type of funding for the drug task forces and programs," stated Graves.

Another key issue was the shortage of drug dogs available to drug task forces across the State of Missouri. Individuals stated that if more funding could be made available for the funding of drug dogs, then law enforcement could gain more use of them on a local level and possibly see greater results in the war on drugs.

Officials and representatives also stated the importance of ensuring that drug task forces are provided with the funding and equipment they need across the State of Missouri.

During the meeting, Graves expressed his support for President George W. Bush's budget proposal of $30.2 billion for the Department of Justice that includes significant resources to hire more personnel and improve technology for federal law enforcement agencies.

He also noted his support for the Community Orientated Policing Services in Schools grant program that assist law enforcement agencies in hiring new, additional School Resource Officers to engage in community policing in and around primary and secondary schools.