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Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

KBI to use $2 million grant in fight against meth labs

January 29, 2001

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Kansas Bureau of Investigation director Larry Welch balanced the bad with the good in his annual report released earlier this month, again listing methamphetamine as his main target but noting that the bureau will receive nearly $2 million this year to fight meth use.

The KBI will receive $1.9 million in federal grants exclusively for training law enforcement officials, purchasing more equipment and paying overtime to drug enforcement agents.

Welch said he was pleased that the money wasn't earmarked for costs incurred when agents clean up meth labs, noting that the cost to dispose of a lab can range from $1,000 to $5,000.

"We haven't had the fiscal resources in the past to handle meth as it should be handled," Welch said during an interview last week at KBI headquarters in Topeka. "We haven't been able to throw as many officers and scientists at the problem as I'd have liked to.

"We can use this directly for detection, investigation and seizure, because, as much as anything else, I'd love to finally be able to get a handle on this problem."

The number of clandestine meth labs has jumped substantially in the past six years. In 2000, the KBI and local law enforcement officials seized 702 meth labs across the state a 37 percent increase from 1999, when 511 labs were seized. And last year's total was up more than 270 percent from 1998, when 189 labs were discovered.

"It just won't go away," Welch said. "We were hoping it would level off last year, but, unfortunately, it didn't. And it's certain to be our top priority for at least another year."

In addition to the federal money assigned to fight meth use, Welch mentioned other positives in his report, listing the elimination of the backlog of DNA analysis, and the purchase of a new aircraft.

He said the DNA analysis backlog, which had slowed prosecutions, should be eliminated within six months through the addition of a handful of scientists and contracts with other laboratories.

A new Cessna 182 airplane was purchased with $144,300 in asset forfeiture money seized in drug cases. The aircraft will be used to spot marijuana cultivation, conduct surveillance and transport agents and scientists throughout the state.

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