County chips in to help drug task force

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The 4th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force may have an easier time paying its bills after the Dallas County Commission appropriated $10,000 to the force from it’s budget.

The task force originally requested $40,000 last year to help bolster its operations, when the commission was discussing its fiscal year 2014 budget. The commission denied the request, because the amount was too large, according to Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard.

“I just couldn’t see a situation where we could afford that much,” Ballard said.

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Three months into the fiscal year, the task force made a counter offer of $10,000 and the commission approved the request unanimously.

“In my opinion, their backup request is totally justified,” Ballard said. “It certainly is a good bit of money, but we are the largest county in their jurisdiction.”

Not only is Dallas County the largest in population in the task force’s jurisdiction, but also sees the greatest amount of crime, District Attorney Michael Jackson said.

“Dallas County has the crime of a big, major metro area,” Jackson said.

Jackson, who leads the task force, said the donation while appreciated, but is small in comparison to the task force’s overall budget of approximately $350,000.

“We’re grateful for any amount or donation we get, but clearly we need more help,” Jackson said.

In recent years, Jackson said the task force’s budget has been cut by several hundred thousand dollars, forcing his office to absorb much of the cost. When budgets decrease, Jackson said, his office hires less assistant district attorneys and is forced to be more frugal.

“Keeping it up is a struggle given our budget cuts,” he said. “In the last four or five years, we have gotten a cut every year. In total, we have probably seen about a $1 million in cuts. “

Eliminating the task force is one option, but Lt. Curtis Muhannad, with the Selma Police Department, said the task force is too vital in combatting crime.

“They aren’t really a duplicate of our criminal investigations division,” Muhannad said. “Drugs and crime is really a continuous task and we need as many officers to combat the problem as possible. As soon as you strike one person down, another one springs up.”