ACET faces lost federal funding | CraigDailyPress.com

ACET faces lost federal funding

Bridget Manley

The good news: Local law enforcement agencies may not have to increase their financial support of a multi-county task force.

The bad news: The All Crimes Enforcement Team will lose $92,000 when federal authorities discontinue a judicial grant this year.

Losing the grant will likely mean ACET can cut its financial officer position from its staff, which also will reduce costs. At the same time, however, the task force won’t be able to give its officers overtime pay from its own coffers.

To keep ACET “alive and going,” entities supporting the task force will have to contribute $13,936 to pay for the task force’s supplies and operating expenses, said Garrett Wiggins, ACET task force commander.

That’s about $2,000 less than what each agency has contributed annually for the past several years. However, had ACET received the federal grant, entities would have had to provide only $11,000 each year.

ACET receives funding from six entities in Moffat, Routt and Jackson counties, including the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s offices in Moffat and Routt and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. Police departments in Steamboat Springs and Craig, as well as the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, contribute officers to the task force.

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At Tuesday’s meeting of the Moffat County Commission, Wiggins told Commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers that neither ACET, nor other task forces in the region, will receive the federal judicial grant, which makes up about 20 percent of the task force’s annual budget.

ACET has reduced its operating budget by 30 percent, Wiggins said, by cutting down on utility costs, including telephone costs and copier rentals.

Local businesses and groups have chipped in, too. Craig car dealerships have donated vehicles to ACET, and the town of Hayden has provided the task force with office space free of charge.

Still, the officers’ workload has increased recently. Although ACET began by focusing on squelching the illegal drug trade, its investigations have extended to other crimes, including sexual assault, homicide and delinquency of minors.

At the same time, ACET contains only three investigative officers, including Wiggins.

ACET also has had to rely on alternative techniques in its attempts to root out the drug trade.

“It is impractical, if not impossible, to combat illegal drug business using traditional law enforcement means,” he said, adding that ACET relies on undercover officers and confidential informants in its investigations.

However, ACET’s work is yielding results. This year, the task force has seized more than $170,000 in drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, Wiggins said.

Public feedback indicates that residents believe ACET is doing its job.

“We’ve received a lot of support from the community : on the work that we’ve done,” he said.

During the past 15 months, ACET has honed in on Moffat County. During that time, 44 of 56, or 78 percent, of ACET’s cases took place in Moffat County.

“Not that Routt doesn’t have its share of problems,” Wiggins said, “but what we figured out was a lot of the drugs coming into Routt County were being distributed from Moffat County. We wanted to target the people at the grassroots level.”