DEA Narcotics Task Force

The Fernandina Beach Police Department is committed to the goal of reducing illegal narcotics activity in our City, and for that reason we participate in the Jacksonville Regional Drug Enforcement Administration Narcotics Task Force. There are many practical considerations associated with our joining other agencies in the DEA Task Force and it is important to give appropriate weight to the numerous and sometimes subtle variables when determining proper cost-benefit analysis.

It can be argued that because the federal approach to narcotics investigation cannot succeed without local law enforcement assistance and vice-versa, we are therefore somewhat obliged to contribute minimal resources to the overall effort to fight the war on drugs, granted this may be the least compelling reason. Narcotics operations often involve organized crime components and widespread networks that cross jurisdictional lines, and consequently demand complex investigative strategy and resources. Arresting minor dealers on the street corners of Fernandina Beach does little to stem the flow of illegal drugs into our area.

From a local perspective, we most certainly have a demonstrated need for proactive narcotics enforcement in our City, on the island, and throughout Nassau County. Further, it is reasonable to assume that drug dealers will exploit any area with lax law enforcement efforts. For those reasons we are continuing to address both upper level and street level narcotics sales. Our officers regularly disrupt local drug sales and often arrest those attempting to sell narcotics to area users. This kind of work becomes increasingly dangerous and less effective the longer our officers are exposed, considering the fact that we are operating within a very limited physical environment.

Within the context of the Task Force approach, officer safety issues are given careful consideration and planning, as appropriate intervention and take-down scenarios require precise teamwork. Our current approach serves to provide some anonymity and cover for our officers working in these situations, as well as for those officers assigned to the Task Force, but it also accomplishes much more.

The DEA provides an abundance of expertise not otherwise available to local law enforcement. They are on the cutting edge of narcotics investigation and they bring that experience to the Task Force in the form of several operational advantages. Narcotics operations are time-consuming and manpower intensive. The Task Force focuses on narcotics operations alone and they have access to a wide net of intelligence, which is best managed and controlled on a multi-jurisdictional level. They also have the advantage of historical perspective, having been focused on a single mission since their inception. Additionally, they provide a training component for local operations; surveillance equipment in the form of airplanes, cars, and boats; technical and logistical support with wiretap operations, fixed cameras, and weapons; financial records; as well as buy money for drugs and cash for confidential informants.

Because of our participation in the Task Force, we are often able to influence decision-making with respect to how time and resources are utilized. We have been able to bring the weight of the Task Force to bear on local operators, making federal cases that will maximize our goal of dismantling narcotics operations in the region, while having a positive impact on local criminal activity.

Although our participation in the DEA Task Force is clearly warranted without further justification, the City also benefits in monetary terms. Narcotics operations invariably require a great deal of overtime expenditure, as scheduling of informants and targets becomes difficult to manage. The Task Force reimburses the City for our overtime usage at a rate of $16,000 annually. In addition, asset forfeiture sharing among Task Force participants can provide significant revenues that translate into cost savings in the Police Department budget. In the past eighteen months alone the City has been awarded more than $100,000 in cash and confiscated property, which certainly helps in our effort to balance our investment.

Future trends in the war on drugs suggest that our participation in the Task Force will continue to pay dividends, especially regarding operational effectiveness and officer safety. For several reasons we can expect cocaine to be replaced substantially by methamphetamine in this region because of a deadly combination of factors. Meth is cheaper, the “high” lasts longer, and it is easily manufactured within this country, all considered benefits by meth users. Meth labs are very dangerous, volatile operations, and present a significant challenge to law enforcement.
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