Sunday, April 14, 2024

Drug task force sees success in fight on drugs

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The Columbia River Drug Task Force had a successful year in 2023 in the fight against the drug epidemic.

The mission of the CRDTF is to combat illegal drug activity, current law enforcement issues facing the community, and to help promote successful and thriving communities in both Chelan and Douglas County.   

Last year, members of the CRDTF seized nearly 5,500 grams of methamphetamine, 750 grams of cocaine, 24,970 fentanyl pills, and 74.6 grams of pure fentanyl powder. 

It is impossible to quantify the number of lives saved by these drug seizures. However, it is important to note that two milligrams of fentanyl powder can be lethal, the task force said in a recent press release.

Chief Ryan Moody said it is hard to measure preventative enforcement.

"I think we can easily say that some lives were saved based off the amount of fentanyl and pills that were taken off the street," he said.

 

Other drug seizures included heroin, marijuana, and a variety of illicit prescription-type drugs.

The CRDTF served 56 search warrants that resulted in the recovery of 21 firearms, many of which were stolen. 

In 2023, the CRDTF opened 119 new cases. Out of those cases, they made 104 arrests and seized over $76,000 in cash and $175,000 in bank accounts.  

"As far as the other effect that we have on the community is the number of arrests that we do make, it makes it harder for people that want to come here to deal drugs," he said. "I mean, they'll basically go where they can get away with doing it and if we can try and put a dent in it, and in showing that this isn't an easy place for them to deal drugs. I think that that'll affect the community as well."

The CRDTF not only combats the drug epidemic but also remains flexible in the cases they work and how those cases relate to the needs of the community. As a result, they also work cases that relate to firearms, gangs, violent crimes, and serial offenders.  

This combined focus had a positive impact on juvenile gang violence, in addition to the increasing drug use and fentanyl overdoses. 

The CRDTF worked a case that led to the arrest of a resident of Safe Park 1 in the City of Wenatchee. That investigation led to two additional arrests of drug dealers who were supplying drugs to residents of the Safe Park locations. 

Additionally, the CRDTF met with all the principals from Eastmont School District to educate them on youth gang trends and fentanyl. CRDTF members also did presentations at two other local schools and participated in the WPD Citizen's Academy.

One of the biggest challenges the task force faces is funding. Currently, the task force is funded by the Byrne JAG grant through the Washington State Department of Commerce. However, that funding will end after 2024.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs asked Washington legislatures to continue funding drug task forces. So the task force will be funded through next year, but after that, they don't know where their funding will come from, Moody said.

Moving forward into 2024, the CRDTF aims to continue to reduce crime rates, help community members feel safe, and continue Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Chelan, and Douglas County's reputations as great places to raise families and live for generations to come.

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media.

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