Pubdate: Thu, 20 Dec 2001
Source: Atmore Advance, The (AL)
Copyright: 2001, Atmore Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Robert Blankenship


The 21st Judicial Drug Task Force got a Christmas present straight 
from the governor's office this week that will help them fight drugs 
in Escambia County.

Governor Don Siegelman has awarded $210,000 to continue the battle 
against illegal use and distribution within the county. The governor 
notified Escambia County Commission Chairman Larry White that the 
grant had been approved to continue the operation of the 21st 
Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force. Local matching funds of $70,000 
have been committed to the project by Escambia County.

Task Force Commander Keith Hutchins said the grant is a necessity for 
the agency.

"Without this money we could not function as an agency," Hutchins 
said. "It is needed in order for the county to maintain an 
independent agency focusing solely on drugs and crimes associated 
with drugs."

Hutchins said the grant money is used to pay salaries, purchase 
equipment, office rent and many other operational expenses.

The task force is made up of four agents, a prosecutor and an 
administrative assistant.

Siegelman said the awarding of the grant should be viewed as a symbol 
of Alabama's determination to fight drug trafficking and drug abuse.

"The continuation of this program sends a strong message that 
trafficking, distribution and use of illegal drugs will not be 
tolerated in the state of Alabama," Siegelman said. "I commend the 
work of law enforcement officials in Escambia County and I am pleased 
to provide these funds."

The 21st Judicial Drug Task Force is a combined effort of the 
Escambia County Sheriff's Office, the Escambia County District 
Attorney's Office and municipal police departments in Brewton, 
Atmore, East Brewton and Flomaton. The organizations join together to 
create a single multi-jurisdictional unit dedicated to the 
enforcement of controlled substances laws and the investigation of 
other drug-related crime in Escambia County.

Activities funded by the grant include investigation and prosecution 
of drug offenders who commit violent crimes, seizure of money and 
property used in drug-related crimes and surveillance of gangs who 
distribute crack cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs. The task 
force also works to increase training for law enforcement officers 
and to improve interaction with probation and parole officials.

Siegelman awarded the grant from funds made available to the state 
through a program of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has 
designated the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs 
to administer the grant.
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