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Officials know importance of task force to combat drugs

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE  – The affect of methamphetamine is far more than simply the people that are manufacturing, trafficking or using the illegal drug.

Many aspects of society are affected and law enforcement officials believe the current drug task force in Bullitt County is the most effective way to combat the problem.

Danny Thompson, chief deputy Bullitt County sheriff, has been in law enforcement for four decades and has seen the influx of methamphetamine.

When Thompson served as chief of the now-defunct Bullitt County Police Department, the drug problems revolved around things such as marijuana and cocaine.

Now, the battle for police has gone to clandestine operations, especially meth labs.

“Meth is difficult to track,” Thompson  said. “It’s easy to make and easy to get.”

He believes Bullitt County is not unlike other areas. The only difference is that law enforcement agencies in Bullitt County may be a bit more aggressive and a bit more open to the public about the problem.

He credited the creation of the Bullitt County Drug Task Force as a major contributor to the increase in arrests.

“People are a lot more aware of what happens with their neighbors,” said Thompson. “They know what to do if they see something strange.”

With the patrol deputies busy with normal runs, Thompson said the task force has allowed detectives to work only on that  particular crime.

“Our guys on the street are busy doing other things,” said Thompson. “The task force can concentrate on that.”

With funding in a large part coming from federal and state grants, there is always a question.

Kenny Hardin, director of the Bullitt County Drug Task Force, said it is always a guess whether funding will come through. To date, the task force has been able to continue on the available funding, including assistance from Bullitt Fiscal Court’s general fund.

Hardin said the ability to arrest hundreds of individuals since the task force’s inception seven years ago is due in part to the ability to concentrate on the single issue of drug enforcement.

Starting with the raid of only six methamphetamine labs in its first year, that number grew to 50 last year. In the first two months of 2009, the agency had 15 lab raids.

In addition to funding concerns, Hardin said staffing issues are always a problem.

The sheriff’s department has two officers on the task force and Shepherdsville has one. Hardin is a part of the county government contribution.

Funding is assured through the end of June 2009. After that, Hardin said he is currently applying for the new grant cycle.

The hope is that the federal stimulus money will assist with drug intervention programs, such as the task force.

If grants aren’t available, Hardin hopes Bullitt Fiscal Court would find a way to continue the task force in some fashion.

Getting drug dealers off the street and talking with over 1,000 students a year are all part of the task force mission.

Playing a part in public forums to education people about the dangers of drugs is another part of the mission.

Thompson hopes the task force will also survive for years to come.

He estimated that at least 95 percent of all crimes have something to do with drugs.

“Almost every crime can be traced back to drugs,” said Thompson. “It’s a tremendous problem and we must continue to do whatever we can to combat it.”

County attorney Walter Sholar agreed that drugs affect so many.

As a prosecutor for the past 20 years, Sholar said the drugs of choice have changed. But with the population increase, so has the number of drug-related cases.

Without the drug task force, Sholar said he didn’t know how many arrests would be made or labs shut down.

“The drug task force does a tremendous job,” said Sholar. “A lot of communities don’t or can’t have this focus.”

The one concern with the infiltration of meth is that it is a drug that is manufactured locally. With other drugs, it has normally been a matter of dealing with users or sellers.

Sholar said meth has become the single-most devasting drug that he’s dealt with.

“It destroys families and the extended families,” said Sholar. “It touches so many.”

To learn more about the problem of methamphetamine labs and usage in Bullitt County, the public is invited to attend a forum on Tuesday, April 7.

The forum will begin at 6 p.m. at the Bullitt County Extension Service on Halls Lane off Highway 44 East. Everyone is invited.

There will be a panel discussion, a presentation by Hardin and a time for questions and answers.

The Bullitt County Partners in Prevention is the key sponsor of the forum.

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Meth forum set for April 7

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The number of arrests associated with the use and manufacture of methamphetamine continues to rise in Bullitt County.

After the Bullitt County Drug Task Force raided 55 meth labs in 2008, undercover detectives have already hit 15 in the early stages of this year.

Part of the success with the drug task force deals with an increased public awareness of the problem.

With this in mind, the Bullitt County Partners in Prevention has teamed up with a variety of local agencies, including The Pioneer News, to present a public forum on Tuesday, April 7, at 6 p.m.

The forum will be at the Bullitt County Extension Service office on Halls Lane off Highway 44 East.

Cynthia Brown, the public education director for the Bullitt County Health Department, said the Partners in Prevention group meets regularly. One of the discussions included the increase in the usage and the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Kentucky State Police public information officer Steve Pavey recommended holding a public forum, said Brown.

The idea mushroomed from there.

“We want the public to understand the problem,” said Brown. “Education is a key to the solution.”

Pavey will bring a KSP trailer with an example of a meth lab to show the public.

Kenny Hardin, the director of the Bullitt County Drug Task Force, will lead the opening discussion on the state of affairs locally in terms of methamphetamine.

Brown said a panel discussion would follow. Among those on the panel will be a youngster who will talk about her early addiction to drugs.

There will also be a time for questions and answers.

Although the presentation is set to close at 7:30 p.m., Brown said presenters would be around longer, if needed.

“We expect a big crowd,” said Brown.

Both Pavey and Hardin agree that much of the success in shutting down meth labs has been the public education.

In 2006, The Pioneer News hosted a public forum on meth and over 100 people attended. Hardin said he was pleased with the interest and that has continued.

“We get tips every day,” said Hardin. “We don’t have time to get to them all. We have to prioritize.”

By being better informed, Hardin said people are more familiar with the signs to look for when a meth lab is next door.

“They know the odor,” said Hardin. “They know what to look for.”

From smelling the odor from a meth lab to seeing discarded or burned items needed to make meth, Hardin said the people have helped his agency tremendously.

“Public awareness and education is a huge part of combating this,” said Pavey. “The public has to get involved to stop this.”

In his role with the KSP, Pavey does hundreds of presentations to school and civic groups. Those talks work.

For example, after giving a Red Ribbon talk at Bullitt Lick Middle School and an article appearing in The Pioneer News, he was stopped and given a tip on possible drug use.

“We need the help of the people,” said Pavey. “That’s why the presentations are so important.”

The public forum is free and no reservations are needed. For more information on the forum or for directions, call Brown at 955-5355.