Some police can no longer afford undercover drug investigations

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

Some local police agencies say they can no longer afford to do undercover drug investigations.
Some local law enforcement officials in the Big Sandy region say budget problems and the new law designed to ease jail overcrowding have shut down their long-term undercover operations.
Now the agencies are looking for new ways to fight the drug epidemic.

Police we talked to say last year it cost them only a few hundred dollars to build a case to arrest one drug dealer and keep them in jail, but now it costs them a few thousand dollars to build a felony case to put one suspected dealer behind bars!

Prestonsburg police say new laws in effect this year means undercover officers have to buy more pills from alleged dealers.
"Now I have to buy so many Oxycontins. If I have to buy ten, that's a thousand dollars and plus pay my informant, we just can't afford to do it; a small department can't afford to do it," said Bryan Hall, Prestonsburg Police Assistant Chief.

Hall says what used to cost around $300 to build a felony case now costs $2,700 per alleged dealer.

"Funding is a major issue for smaller agencies, especially with the economy and budgets either being cut or staying the same," said Jonathan Eperson, Paintsville Police Detective.

"Pretty much, effectively shut us down," said Hall.

"It's a shame because most of the crime in this area is stemming from the drug trade," said Eperson.

Several different police agencies met on Wednesday in Prestonsburg to discuss the problem and look for solutions.

"As of right now, we'll do what we can do. We're not quitting, but we're not going to be able to work the way we were," said Hall.

The agencies are planning to pool resources and work together. They will no longer focus on individual investigations and will move to interdiction, looking for drugs in more safety checkpoints.

"Going from basically working narcotics and undercover, it's going to be high visibility and in your face law enforcement," said Hall.

Police say larger agencies like Operation UNITE and KSP will continue undercover drug investigations.

Police say the new laws also affect theft case arrests. They say someone accused of stealing less than $500 from someone else will get a citation instead of going to jail.

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