The Emery County Drug Task Force has been in existence for approximately 15 years. This last year, the task force has been working with the adult probation and parole. With only one full-time deputy and aided by the rest of the Emery County Sheriff's deputies in the 2003-04 grant year there were 89 arrests, 75 convictions, 135 grams of methamphetamine was seized and/or purchased and 309 dosage units of prescription drugs were seized and/or purchased. This is an extremely high rate of arrests for such a small task force.
The grant year for the task force runs from July 1 through June 30. A task force officer begins with one year spent in extensive training as well as the day to day street work. The job is extremely stressful and when the officer needs a break, another deputy from the sheriff's office will be assigned.
Capt. Kyle Ekker, grant administrator said, "We would like to thank the Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon, county attorney, adult probation and parole, commissioners and the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance grant program, for their assistance in the administering of our task force. The sheriff's office provides a 25 percent match for any grant money received. The grant money comes from the federal government and is administered by the Edward Byrne Memorial program."
Grant money is used for equipment, training and the general operations of the task force. Some money is used to purchase narcotics. Capt. Ekker said, "The drug task force concentrates on enforcement at the street level. We care about removing the drug element from our communities. Our task force and sheriff's office works together to bring that about. We want people to know if they are doing drugs or selling to our kids that we will do our best to put you out of business. Being involved in drugs more often than not leads to criminal activity.
"It is safe to say that 95 percent of the burglaries in the county last year were drug related, people stealing to pawn or sell items to obtain money for drugs. A lot of the burglaries were people ransacking homes looking for any type of drugs, especially prescription drugs; if you have any medication left over from a prescription get rid of it, flush it. Emery County has an epidemic problem with prescription drugs. Our drug task force agent was asked to speak at a meeting for Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Oxycotin because they were alarmed with the number of cases we have for the number of people in our area.
"Dealers are profiting from the sale of prescription drugs and they are a real problem and concern. There is no difference between the illegal use of methamphetamines and the abuse of prescription medication. Prescription medication is just as addicting and damaging as street drugs are. Abuse of prescription medication leads to many family problems. We are also concerned that previously eradicated drugs are making a comeback and these drugs are being seen again.
"With the help of the Emery County Drug Task Force and our community members we can arrest and convict these people that are destroying the lives of our young people. We also work with offenders to get them off of drugs. We don't just want to lock people up. There are treatment programs available. One program we are especially proud of is our Drug Court program. Instead of sending an offender to jail, they have the opportunity to become drug free by constant monitoring through urine samples and also drug treatment classes. We have had many successful graduates of Drug Court.
"If you are concerned that your son or daughter might be involved in drugs, then we will administer a drug test for you. Changes in behavior should be watched for as well as strange, unknown odors and unusual behavior. Drug users will experience extreme mood swings, intense highs and lows. We want to get these people into treatment, because 50 percent of our arrests are by repeat offenders who are unable or unwilling to change their lives. We want to reduce the demand for drugs, this is a big step in reducing the drug problem.
"People with prior convictions will also have an enhancement added to their charges with new legislation that became effective in May. Also, if a drug sale is made in front of a child, then charges are enhanced.
"We are interested in any information you might have concerning drug activity that you are aware of and we encourage you to call the drug task force hot line with that information. Callers can remain anonymous. Just leave a message at 381-2888. You can also call the dispatch at 381-2404 and ask for the drug task force officer or Sgt. Tom Harrison," said Capt. Ekker.