Officials project budget shortfall for Metro Drug Task Force

BENTON/FRANKLIN COUNTIES - Keeping drugs out of your neighborhood, and finding the funds to do it. Accountants are projecting an 80-thousand dollars shortfall for the Metro Drug Task Force. It's partly because the agency hasn't seized enough drugs. Grant money is also dwindling.

This is your city, your streets. The same streets the Metro Drug Task Force hits hard to turn up drugs. Going undercover to expose trafficking. The task force targets 'mid-level' drug dealers. Handling cases too big for patrol officers - and too small for the DEA.

"It comes across the border or it's made or however it comes to our area, and it changes hands several times," said Metro Drug Task Force Commander Trevor White.

The task force relies mostly on grant money. Funds that have plummeted by over 30% this year due to budget cuts. Benton County commissioners support a three-tenths tax hike to cover the agency's costs. But that option is a long ways from happening.

"I think it needs to be confronted as much as possible," said Kennewick resident Briana Hedrick.

Briana Hedrick knows the danger of addiction. She's had friends fall into drug abuse.

"It's kind of scary because you don't know how they'll react when they're on drugs," added Hedrick.

Briana hopes the task force gets funding to stay afloat. The group has struggled to seize drugs and other assets that add to their till. Like other agencies, Metro pockets the profits drug dealers make. Adding the forfeited cash to the budget to pay the bills.
They only turned up about $25,000 last year. A far cry from over $130,000 just a few years ago.

By snagging those profits, officials say they're putting a bigger dent on an entire drug operation. And helps keep them on the streets.

"We throw the rock in the pond, and the ripples are hitting everyone," explained Commander White.

Working hard to keep families like Briana's safe.

The budget cycle started in July. That means, the task force has all year to fill the $80,000 gap.