Editorial: Kudos to our local councils, county in battle against deadly narcotics
Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) officers are the boots on the ground in the battle against narcotics in Yavapai County – including opioids and deadly synthetics such as fentanyl.
It was a shock then when Sheriff Scott Mascher saw a funding shortfall over the past year that threatened to sideline PANT’s efforts.
Specifically, PANT investigators’ and detectives’ salaries over the years have been paid for in part through money from forfeitures. The program is called RICO – the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is designed to undercut the profits of wrongdoers by seizing assets believed to be tied to criminal activity.
But, a substantial chunk of the RICO funding, as of July 2018, was being lost because of a federal law that prevents the use of RICO funds to cover replacement salaries for officers who are specifically assigned to asset forfeiture duties.
In addition, there has been a significant decline in asset forfeitures – specifically cash – throughout the country. “We don’t see the money being transported like it used to,” said Mascher, who explained that drug dealers have instead been transferring money through digital currencies and pre-paid gift cards.
Thankfully, Mascher’s call several months ago for help in shoring up the PANT budget brought about positive results.
Participating agencies – local police departments’ councils and the county Board of Supervisors – did not balk at increasing financial support for the countywide multi-agency drug enforcement task force. Examples include:
• The county supervisors agreed to cover existing PANT positions within the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office through the county budget, and they also have fully funded two additional PANT sergeants and a detective.
• Prescott Police Department, which was fully-funding its PANT detective, has assigned a K9 unit to serve part-time with the task force.
• Prescott Valley Police Department is covering half of its PANT sergeant’s salary in addition to the detective position it was already fully funding.
• Chino Valley Police Department (CVPD) has offered to assist with paying for its PANT detective’s overtime hours; the department already fully funds the position’s base salary.
Cheers and kudos to these agencies, and their city and town councils and the supervisors, for seeing the need and for picking up the slack for PANT and the Yavapai Family Advocacy Center, which also was dependent on RICO funds.
“Across the board, law enforcement, city and town councils and the Board of Supervisors; everybody just really stepped up,” said Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who sits on the PANT Advisory Board.
Without PANT investigating criminal drug activity, dealers selling drugs that kill – such as fentanyl – would be even more prevalent locally. In fact, the “bad guys” could easily outnumber any law enforcement effort we could muster without this agency.
Drug dealers, Yavapai County is still closed to your business!