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Drug prosecution unit waits on grant

The drug prosecution unit covering the largest geographical circuit in the state is awaiting word on approval for a grant to help with funding.

Jimmy Thomas, assistant district attorney, has served as director and prosecutor for the Drug Task Force for Alabama’s 4th Judicial District since 2007.

He said it is responsible for putting several criminals behind bars.

“It’s a lot of work for our agents to travel into counties,” Thomas said. “But one of the main ideas of the drug task force is to be a multi-jurisdictional unit. What that means is we work with local law enforcement to seek out those individuals who are involved in illegal drug distributing and trafficking.

“We have had quite a bit of success. We have been able to take some major drug dealers off the streets in all five counties.”

The task force has a proposed budget of $300,000 for the 2008-09 fiscal year. It serves Dallas, Hale, Perry, Bibb and Wilcox counties.

The district attorney’s office is responsible for a 50 percent match of a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Thomas recently began requesting pledges from cities and counties that the office covers and said he had received commitments from Wilcox and Perry counties and the City of Marion.

The City of Selma and Dallas County are reviewing their respective budgets before committing a pledge amount.

“We’re awaiting a copy of their budget and a formal request,” said Probate Judge Kim Ballard, chairman of the Dallas County Commission. “We probably are going to; we always have. It’s a very important service they render. Matter of fact, that’s about the only effective drug enforcement we’ve had in a while.”

In addition to a lead prosecutor, the task force employs two of its own agents who work with federal drug agencies. It also employs a legal assistant.

Thomas said he expects to hear word of approval of the grant on or shortly after Wednesday, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Even if the grant is not approved, the program won’t discontinue. The district attorney’s office, however, will be responsible for financing the entire balance of the budget.

“It would (hurt), that’s why we go around trying to solicit pledges and contributions from the various commissions and the municipalities,” Thomas said.