Drug fight funds added

Money going to equipment, investigations

Seymour Police Department will have more money to spend on drug investigations for the rest of the year.

In response to the increase in heroin and methamphetamine in the area, Police Chief Bill Abbott said more funds are needed to help cut the available supply of drugs on the streets and to put drug dealers behind bars.

The city council approved Abbott’s request Monday to transfer $37,000 from the police patrol payroll account with nearly half going to finance drug investigations and the other half for equipment.

The equipment will put the police department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department on the same in-house computer operating system to be able to share information.

Abbott said the $37,000 is coming from the salary of an open patrolman position. He hopes to fill the position in October, he said.

Up until 2008, the police department was part of the federally-funded Southern Indiana Drug Task Force.

“That funded a lot of our drug investigations,” Abbott said.

But when the federal grant ran out, the task force disbanded, and it was left up to individual communities to fund their own drug investigations.

From 2009 to 2013, Abbott requested and received an additional $10,000 each of those years for drug investigations from the city’s Rainy Day Fund and used seizure money carried over from the drug task force.

Seizure money is confiscated from drug dealers during large-scale raids. As part of the drug task force, Seymour received a percentage of money seized in other counties, too, Abbott said.

“If we originated that investigation, we got a bigger chunk of it,” he said. “So we were always getting seizure money.”

The seizure fund has since been drained, and most seizures now result in the confiscation of drugs, not large amounts of cash, Abbott said.

“Thirty five hundred (dollars) is a pretty good seizure anymore, whereas before, we were getting $10-, $12-, $15-grand at a time,” he said.

Without that money, Abbott said the department hasn’t been able to work as much or as hard as he would like in its fight against drugs.

He has supplemented drug investigation money with grants from the Jackson County Drug-Free Council, which this year equaled around $4,500.

“Theoretically, I could spend that in a week buying drugs here in town,” he said.

That money, which the department received in June, has been used up, he said.

Councilman Shawn Malone asked Abbott if he expected to see any of the drug investigation money returned to the department.

“I don’t look to get a dime of this $18,000 back, but I will get my money’s worth out of it,” Abbott said. “We refer to it as bass fishing. You don’t catch the big fish by using worms. You catch it by using little fish. So we get the little fish and keep working our way up.”

Asset forfeiture has always been a questionable practice, he added.

“To me, if someone is making their money illegally and I can prove that and document that, I should be able to seize that stuff to further my investigations,” Abbott said. “If we get lucky and come across a seizure, we are definitely going to go after the seizure. But it’s going to take money to get us there.”

To get a dealing charge to stick, Abbott said multiple drug buys are required.

The money will never be enough to fix the drug problem, but it helps, Abbott said.

“It’s a Band-Aid,” he said. “If we don’t do something, it’s only going to get worse than what we’ve already seen.”

Abbott said most crime in the area can be linked in some way or another back to drugs.

“Over my 27 years with the police department, there is literally no crime that does not have drug involvement somewhere in the commission of that crime,” he said.

He hopes the additional drug investigation money will help make a dent in local crime.

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.