Courier Staff Writer
Continued funding for the drug task force will help investigators persist in their never-ending battle against drugs in southeast Iowa.
The Ottumwa City Council will consider a grant application to the Governor’s Office on Drug Control Policy for funding to the Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force for fiscal year 2014.
The grant application includes funding for three Ottumwa police officers, for which the city is responsible for a 25 percent for two of the positions. The required 25 percent match for the third officer will be paid for by the task force out of forfeiture funds.
This will be the 24th year this grant has provided funding for the task force. The task force covers Davis, Keokuk, Henry, Mahaska, Jefferson, Wapello and Van Buren Counties.
Drug crimes have not necessarily decreased in the area since the task force began in 1990, said Sgt. Jason Bell. The task force arrested a total of 250 people last year (an increase from the previous year), most of which were for felony crimes.
“There are years where [crimes committed] goes down, but it happens to be that last year we did have an increase,” he said. “We also had an increase of seizures of marijuana during the last grant period.”
The trend in southeast Iowa is larger quantities of ice methamphetamine on the streets, which counter-balances a reduction in meth lab seizures, “probably because there’s not the demand for drug users to have to go out and manufacture their own meth because there’s so much product available,” Bell said.
Ice meth is more pure than what the task force was seizing 10 years ago.
“It’s common to have 100 percent pure meth seizures in the area, whereas historically if we were seizing meth, it was 25-50 percent pure, and we thought we were doing really good,” Bell said.
When purer meth rises to the forefront, there’s less product out there, he said, because it’s easier to avoid detection from law enforcement.
“If there’s less physical product, they can conceal it in vehicles better for transportation,” he said.
Unfortunately, a more pure form of meth means it’s more addicting. In meth that is only 25-50 percent pure, manufacturers add ingredients to the final product so there appears to be higher quantity so they have a better profit.
“If you have a pound of meth and add a pound of baking soda to it, essentially you have 50 percent pure meth, but two pounds of it,” Bell said.
The majority of the task force’s arrests are more “behind the scenes,” he said.
“It’s common in drug investigations that they drag on and on and on,” Bell said. “If we do a search warrant on someone’s house and they say they want to cooperate with us and tell us who their drug supplier is, we don’t want to advertise that in the news media, saying we did a search warrant on this day ... because it could muddy the water and hamper the investigation.”
In 2012, the drug task force executed 66 search warrants and seized 12 meth labs. Investigators also confiscated hundreds of grams of meth, heroin, cocaine and crack, as well as nearly 300 ounces of marijuana and more than 600 dosage units of pharmaceuticals.
The council will also vote to approve:
• The contract for the Eleaner Drive Reconstruction Project, which will include the removal of existing storm pipe and replacing it with storm intake. The nearly $85,000 project will be funded through the Expanded Street Repair Program and construction is expected to begin this summer.
• A beer and/or liquor application for Snobby’s Night Club, 305 E. Main St., the former location of Scooter’s.
The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will air live on GO-TV, cable channel 6.