Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jul 2010
Source: St. Helena Star (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Lee Enterprises
Author: Alisha Wyman


A Napa County grand jury report on the Napa Special Investigations
Bureau recommends finding more money and increasing staffing so the
agency can fight a growing problem with drugs.

Most of the report centers on the most abused drugs, such as marijuana
and methamphetamine. It notes a growing problem of young people
abusing prescription medications.

"While NSIB directs its efforts and assets toward all levels of
illegal drug trafficking in the county, an emphasis has been placed on
methamphetamine since the drug is so prolific and dangerous," the
report says.

In fiscal year 2008-09, the bureau seized 3,161.5 grams of
methamphetamine, with a street value of about $236,467, the report

Agents told grand jurors that prices have increased dramatically over
the past two years, which has led to an increase in residential
burglaries and auto thefts.

In fiscal year 2008-09, the bureau, along with agents from the
California Department of Justice seized 90,000 marijuana plants from
outdoor farms valued at $266 million, the report said.

NSIB officials told grand jurors that 90 percent of these outdoor
operations are the work of Mexican drug trafficking

The profits they can make from the drug have incited a "Green Rush" to

Agents expressed frustration with the gray areas that medical
marijuana laws have created in investigating drug trafficking, the
report said.

In total, NSIB agents arrested 143 people in 2009 on suspicion of
drug-related crimes.

The grand jury commended the bureau's efforts.

"This small group of law enforcement professionals do an outstanding
job with the limited resources provided them," the report said.

The bureau is made up of a collection of staff from county agencies,
with a Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement commander overseeing the bureau.

The Sheriff's Office provides one sergeant, two deputy sheriffs and a
secretary. The Napa Police Department has two-full-time police
officers dedicated to NSIB.

The rest of the positions, including prosecutors, a probation officer
and police officers, are paid for with state money.

Calistoga Police Department and St. Helena Police Department chip in

The grand jury recommended that the bureau's staffing be increased to
fiscal year 2000 levels and that additional ways to fund
investigations be found.

Adhering to that recommendation could be difficult for the police
department during difficult economic times, said Napa Police Commander
Steve Potter. The department's first priority is to keep staffing up
in its patrol division, he said.

Drugs are a growing problem, Potter said. "We as a department feel
(NSIB) is a critical component of our department in how we keep our
community safe," he said.

Other recommendations include emphasizing bilingual abilities during
agent selection and arming the probation officer assigned to drug cases.

Bureau Commander Gary Pitkin declined to comment until after the
county responds to the document. 
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