HUDSON — Columbia County might renew an agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration to provide investigators from the sheriff’s office on two narcotics task forces.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has participated in two DEA task forces over the years — the DEA Task Force, who disrupts the illicit drug sales in the Capital Region area, and the agreement with DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Task Force to disrupt and dismantle individuals and organizations involved in distributing controlled and illicit pharmaceuticals.
The sheriff’s office provides two investigators to work with the task forces.
The Columbia County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee agreed to renew the agreement with the DEA for another year at its meeting Aug. 15.
One investigator works full-time with the DEA task force, dealing with all types of drugs, and has federal credentials to work cases anywhere in the country. Another investigator works with the Tactical Diversion Squad Task Force on a part-time basis, about 20 hours a week, dealing with pharmaceuticals.
The county pays for the salaries of the investigators, but the county is reimbursed for overtime pay.
“The benefits supercede the costs,” said Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett. “We have better resource- and information-sharing with the rest of the state.”
The Greene County Sheriff’s Department provided deputies for the DEA task force working to crack down on illegal sale and use of prescription pills, but stopped participating two years ago.
“I support that team,” said Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley. “It is a good thing. You do lose deputies, but there are benefits to the county.”
One benefit to the county is revenue from seizures from raids, which go back to the involved agencies at the end of a case.
Bartlett recalled a big case four years ago that covered most of the eastern part of the state.
“That case involved several agencies and they seized around $12 million to $13 million,” Bartlett said. “We got around $400,000 from that.”
The county gets revenue and vehicles through its participation on the task forces in smaller increments, which can be used based on federal guidelines.
“We use that money for law enforcement,” Bartlett said. “As long as we use it in narcotics or narcotics education. The work truck I drive was purchased with seized assets.”
The sheriff’s office has also purchased surveillance equipment including, recently, a drone with seized assets.
Bartlett can also utilize resources through the task forces, including personnel.
“I can get agents from anywhere to help with buys or surveillance,” Bartlett said. “It does not cost the county a thing because the federal government pays for the federal agents’ salaries. The task forces are constantly working cases here. And when there is a case our full-time investigator can go anywhere and work the case.”
Seeley is looking to join the task forces again, but space is limited for agencies to join.
“If I could get a deputy on the DEA task force I would participate,” Seeley said. “We have tried to get people in the task force, but there have not been any available spots.”
The full Columbia County Board of Supervisors will have to approve the renewal of the agreement at its next meeting Sept. 12.