Springfield, Mo. -- A group of undercover agents, tasked with waging a war on drugs, could cease to exist. The Springfield Police Chief said Monday regional task forces around the state have undergone drastic cuts in funding over the last few years and more cuts could limit, or even end, their drug-fighting efforts.
"It drives theft. It causes people to abuse children. So if you want to focus on root cause, I think focusing on drug issue is number one," said Chief Paul Williams of Springfield.
Williams said he has made fighting Methamphetamine and other drugs his number one priority while in office. He serves as one of the leaders for the Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional task Force (COMET), a group of more than three dozen law enforcement agencies. The group is one of several around the state now facing funding cuts.
"Everything from surveillance, or actually making a purchase, or getting close to someone who's invovled in sale of those narcotics. That's how we make those cases," Williams said.
Agencies within COMET share resources. State statistics show in 2012 COMET investigators worked 1,000 cases, made more than 800 arrests, and busted 100 meth labs. Those are accomplishments that Williams said are becoming increasingly difficult due to cuts.
"Basically a 50 percent cut over last four years on grants to fund these types of operations from $6 million to $3 million, and we suffer those cuts throughout," Williams said.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced in Springfield Monday he is backing the idea of state-level funding to replace lost federal dollars. Members of both state and local agencies gathered at a news conference at the Greene County Sheriff's Office to back the idea.
"You can't make a lot of cases without having some type of undercover or confidential informant," Williams said.