Start-up money still has to be secured, but Sheriff Ray Latham said Monday that he has met with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs in Montgomery and gotten some sort of preliminary approval.
It’ll cost about $165,000 to get the task force up and running, according to Latham. The ADECA grant for which the sheriff plans to apply will cover almost everything except for salaries and vehicle expenses, he said earlier this week.
The grant — known as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant — is a sum given to Alabama by the Department of Justice, primarily for multi-jurisdictional task forces, said ADECA spokesman Larry Childers. Between 25 and 30 task forces throughout the state are funded by the Byrne grant, Childers said.
Money is doled out on an annual basis, which means each task force funded by the grant has to re-apply each year, Childers said. ADECA staff reviews the grants and determines how much money goes where before the end of the program’s fiscal year. Most programs operate on a fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30, but Childers wasn’t sure of the Byrne grant’s logistics.
If it is, Clay County can expect to find out about start-up funding in the next couple months.
Early plans for the Clay County Drug Task Force call for each law enforcement agency in the county to contribute one officer. The force’s primary function will be to “seek out, arrest and seek convictions and forfeitures in drug-related crime and drug use and drug trafficking,” Latham said.
“The County has needed a drug task force for a while,” said Benny Davis, Ashland police chief. “Drugs are such a huge problem.”
Davis estimated that “at least 90 percent” of crime in Clay County is drug-related. Latham spoke with him about forming the drug task force during Latham’s campaign last fall. The first official meeting to discuss forming a drug task force between him, Latham and the Lineville Police Department occurred three weeks ago.
Attempts to reach Line-ville Police Chief Monty Giddens were unsuccessful.
It’s come together quickly, Davis said. Much work remains, though — namely applying for the grant, he said.
Most crimes in their area seem to be linked to the drugs, said Davis and Line-ville Mayor Roy Adamson. Attacking what appears to be the source of the problem should help reduce the crime rate and other problems in the area, Adamson said.
“It’s going to be a big benefit not just for Lineville but for the whole county,” Adamson said. “Everybody’s playing a part … it’s good for us.”
Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546