HUTCHINSON NEWS RELEASE
Benton, Ark. – Asa Hutchinson, the 2006 Republican candidate for Arkansas Governor, today laid out a six-point plan he would implement as Governor to fight the spread of methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs in Arkansas, including creating a Bureau of Drug Enforcement in the Arkansas State Police while also beefing up support for drug treatment courts.
Specifically, Hutchinson's six-point plan includes strengthening the State Police's role in combating the drug trade by creating a Bureau of Drug Enforcement; expanding drug treatment courts and treatment options to help non-violent drug users beat their addictions; and strengthening partnerships between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Establish A Bureau of Drug Enforcement Within The Arkansas State Police
Hutchinson proposed creating a state Bureau of Drug Enforcement within the Arkansas State Police to give the state a stronger hand in fighting drug trafficking and to allow the State Police to partner more effectively in statewide efforts to combat the spread of drugs in Arkansas communities.
The Arkansas Bureau of Drug Enforcement would be responsible for the following:
1) Identifying, targeting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations by focusing State Police efforts and coordinating with local, federal and other states' law enforcement agencies.
2) Enforcing existing Arkansas controlled substance laws efficiently and effectively.
3) Coordinating with existing Drug Task Forces in Arkansas and ensuring appropriate sharing of intelligence.
4) Targeting major drug trafficking organizations, violent career offenders, drug manufacturers and violators of prescription drug laws operating in Arkansas.
5) Protecting state borders by targeting intra- and interstate drug trafficking.
6) Broadening agency intelligence through information sharing with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Expand Drug Treatment Courts in Arkansas
Hutchinson says the state should invest an additional $5 million in drug courts to boost effectiveness.
Drug Treatment Courts have proven to be one of the most effective methods of combating drug abuse and providing treatment to non-violent drug addicts. Unlike less effective treatment programs, the drug treatment courts balance the road to recovery with personal responsibility. Program participants who fail to follow the rules of the courts find themselves back in jail.
Arkansas has one of the highest numbers of untreated substance abusers in the nation and one of the smallest numbers of treatment providers. The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse currently receives approximately $14 million to $15 million in federal money for treatment, and this money is used to contract with treatment centers across Arkansas. The state must continue to monitor this funding to determine if additional funds are needed as drug courts expand their capacity, Hutchinson said.
Provide Additional Funding to State Drug Task Force Programs
In the past two years, the federal grant source used to fund Arkansas' Drug Task Forces has been cut by approximately $3 million dollars annually. This has decreased the ability of local law enforcement agencies to more effectively fight the illegal drug problem and especially the methamphetamine problem. As an example, the 3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force that is comprised of four counties – Jackson, Lawrence, Randolph and Sharp – had to disband due to the reduction in funding.
"Given the current projected state surplus of $700 million, there is no reason that we can't allocate a modest portion of that surplus toward strengthening Arkansas' Drug Task Forces," Hutchinson said. "Let's give the men and women in the Arkansas law enforcement community the tools they need to fight the spread of these dangerous drugs."
Work With Congress to Fund a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Designation in Arkansas
While in Congress and at the DEA, Hutchinson worked to have Arkansas designated as part of a Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (HIDTA). (HIDTA designations are made by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy). He pledged to continue working with federal officials and members of Congress to make the Arkansas HIDTA designation a reality. This designation would recognize that Arkansas is a trafficking route for major criminal organizations, and would allow additional federal resources to be deployed into the fight against drug trafficking in the state.
Increase Information Sharing and Coordination
The only reporting requirements at present for State Drug Task Forces are to file a report with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. As a condition of receiving state money, intelligence, drug trafficking and target reports should be submitted to and coordinated with the Bureau of Drug Enforcement, Hutchinson said, to ensure greater coordination and cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
Increase Drug Education Programs Through Private Sector Funding
Hutchinson pledged to use the office of the governor to lead the effort to develop private sources of funding to raise public awareness of the danger of drugs, curb demand and reduce the prevalence of first-time drug users in Arkansas. These private sector resources will focus solely upon prevention, Hutchinson said, by waging a large-scale public service advertising and Internet marketing campaign targeted at Arkansas' youth and to mobilize community groups across the state in drug education and prevention efforts.
Hutchinson pointed to the Montana Meth Project as a model of how a privately-funded community prevention effort can increase public awareness and potentially reduce drug use and abuse. (For more information on the project, visit online at http://www.montanameth.org).