Pubdate: Sat, 12 Nov 2005
Source: World, The (Coos Bay, OR)
Copyright: 2005 Southwestern Oregon Publishing Company
Author: Carl Mickelson, Staff Writer


The South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team will get a significant 
boost to its anti-drug efforts next year thanks to the recent passage 
of a congressional appropriations bill.

The agency was notified earlier this week that a part of its federal 
backing will nearly double, going from $60,000 in 2003 to $100,000 
next fall. The funding is part of an omnibus spending bill that now 
moves on to President George Bush's desk for signature into law. He's 
expected to sign the bill within the next month.

SCINT, formed in 1988 in response to increasing drug crimes on the 
South Coast, was one of several Oregon agencies that learned of the 
new funding levels for the coming fiscal year.

While SCINT is pleased with the funding, it originally asked for 
$120,000 from Congress. That amount would have almost covered the 
costs for two full-time SCINT detectives - one dedicated for Coos 
County and the other for Curry - said SCINT coordinator and Coos 
County Sheriff's Det. Sgt. Craig Zanni.

Currently, the agency has one full-time investigator, and Zanni who 
splits his time between investigative and administrative roles. SCINT 
was forced to shed a full-time officer in September due to a lack of funding.

Zanni said he will approach other municipalities and ask them to 
contribute money to pay the balance if the desire is to have two 
full-time drug investigators. The door-to-door salesman approach is a 
familiar tactic to Zanni who has often had to knock on city hall 
doors to find willing participants in the program.

The North Bend Police Department donated one of its officers last 
year which created a savings to SCINT because it did not have to 
cover benefits.

"There will definitely be one (detective), maybe two depending on who 
will pick up the difference," Zanni said.

Some years SCINT has gone without any federal appropriations and 
survived on other revenue streams including funding from the 
Community-Oriented Policing Grant and the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant 
Program, Zanni said.

SCINT administrative aide Julie Simpson said the agency should learn 
within the next few months the fate of the Byrne grant. Early 
reports, she said, indicate the grant, that doles out hundreds of 
millions of dollars annually to law enforcement agencies across the 
country, could be halved.

Zanni said the continually unstable source of funding has kept him up 
at night at times.

"We're teetering on the verge of extinction like the dodo bird was," 
he said. "We would like to have some money or help - or both. We 
would take the help over the money."

At its peak, SCINT had about 14 investigators working for it in the 
mid-1990s growing from an initial force of five to six in the late 
1980s, Zanni said. Many of those officers were "donated" from local 
police departments.

But, those times are gone.

In recent years, Zanni said, with ever-tightening budgets, 
municipalities have been forced to pinch pennies and recall many of 
those officers to simply carry out the more routine policing efforts 
on their home turf. That puts added stress on the few who remain at 
SCINT who are forced to deal with heavier workloads.

And, Zanni said, it could reflect in the success or failure of 
busting-up drug operations in the future.

SCINT was formed, Zanni said, when small-time drug deals escalated 
into more sophisticated and better organized operations that reached 
beyond a single police department's jurisdiction. Suddenly, those 
smaller departments found themselves facing big-time dealers. SCINT 
was created to share trained drug agents amongst the smaller 
communities that could not afford them in the first place, Zanni said.

That hasn't changed but the money no longer flows like it once did.

SCINT is a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force whose membership 
comprises officers from South Coast police departments, county 
sheriff's offices, district attorney's offices and members of the 
Oregon State Police in Coos, Curry and western Douglas Counties.

Other Oregon agencies that will receive funding once the bill is 
signed into law include: $200,000 for the Lane County 
Methamphetatmine Abatement Initiative, $450,000 for the Marion County 
Sheriff's Office Breaking Meth Addiction Program and $50,000 for the 
Lincoln County Methamphetamine Initiative.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman