Operation UNITE Going Strong Despite Funding Cuts

By: Dara Rees Email
By: Dara Rees Email

Funding cuts are forcing many law enforcement agencies to scale back, but Operation UNITE officials say it will not slow them down.

Since Operation UNITE began in 2003, officers say they have confiscated more than eight million dollars worth of drugs off the streets of Eastern Kentucky, and they promise not to slow down.

Nearly 3,000 arrests later, Operation UNITE officials say they are still going strong.

"In this month of August, we had 7 roundups, we sought 96 suspects, and we're sending the message that we're still alive and well," says Dan Smoot with Operation UNITE.

Hazard Police Chief Ronnie Bryant says without Operation UNITE, many local police departments don't have the resources to fight the drug problem on their own.

"When we have a drug case, we just call Operation UNITE and they put 100 percent of their time and man power into it, which we don't have time to do that," says Ronnie Bryant.

UNITE officials say their program is improving many communities of Eastern Kentucky.

"We consider treatment to be our biggest success. When you look at Eastern Kentucky before UNITE, no facilities, four drug courts in the whole region. Now every county has drug court, there's treatment facilities popping up everywhere," says Smoot.

Smoot hopes rehabilitation will help get addicts on their feet and keep them out of jail for good.

"In the past, that was most people's excuse, that they couldn't go to treatment because they couldn't afford it. UNITE, we have a voucher program, you apply, go through some routine checks, you can receive treatment free of charge," says Smoot.

Smoot says UNITE also welcomes hundreds of volunteers wanting to get drugs out of their own communities. He says even if all of UNITE's funding was cut, the coalition would still work to keep drugs off the streets in Eastern Kentucky.

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