More than nine-million dollars worth of drugs were taken off the streets of Butte County last year.. But officials say the war on drugs is far from over. Butte Interagency Narcotic presented its annual report this morning in Chico.
Since 1986 the Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force has worked to enforce drug laws. Since then, more than 9,000 people have been arrested for manufacturing or distributing drugs, and a total of 662 meth labs have been seized. But task force agents say there's still a long way to go. BINTF Board Chairman and Oroville Police Chief Bill LaGrone says, "Methamphetamine has always been a long term issue for Butte County.. once again this year it's on the upsurge from last year."
Six methamphetamine labs were seized last year, making Butte County the fifth in the entire state for the number of labs seized. But marijuana is becoming as much of a problem, with more than 20,000 plants seized in Butte County last year. "The availability of it with prop 215. Prop 215 doesn't legalize marijuana, it allows the person to have an affirmative defense in court," says LaGrone.
Officials say controlling the trafficking of drugs is becoming increasingly more difficult as gang cartels infiltrate the north state. LaGrone says, "It is very important that we do focus on that, that we combat the problem right from the beginning so that it doesn't proliferate in the county and become a bigger issue than what we already have."
The BINTF program itself is also under reorganization, after the Department of Justice lost 71-million dollars in funding last year. Causing extreme cuts to drug task forces state wide. LaGrone says, "Of the 55, only 19 survived due to the drastic cuts the DOJ suffered."
Butte County Agents also say keeping their program going is a challenge they may have to deal with in the future. "If we lost BINTF completely for all agencies in Butte County, it would set us up to be the next..13 highly sought after area for the production of illegal narcotics," says LaGrone.