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Graves to DEA:
Send more help to this region

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

When two men from Iowa decided to set up shop on what seemed like a sleepy Tarkio, Mo. ranch last January, it was really a very poor time and place to be a methamphetamine dealer. The farm belonged to Congressman Sam Graves and his younger brother, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.

While those two drug offenders (who allegedly told Graves' brother Danny they were "just fishing"), personal experiences like that have understandably concerned Congressman Graves and have led him to personally meet the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Karen Tandy, in an appeal for help on Capitol Hill last Thursday.

At the meeting, Graves said he laid out his case for the need for a new DEA office in St. Joseph. Graves believes that the northwest section of Missouri is being underserved by the agency.

"Karen was really receptive to my reasoning and I am confident she understands the threat drugs pose to northwest Missouri," Graves said. "With a new DEA office in St. Joseph, drug dealers will have fewer and fewer places to hide.”

Graves would seem to have a strong case. He points to data from the Missouri Highway Patrol that indicates that a larger federal presence could increase seizures of drug labs. In Cape Girardeau county, federal and state law enforcement seized 33 labs last year. In more densely populated Platte County, only one bust was made in 2002.

While it can be argued that Platte County has done an admirable job of curbing the stem of methamphetamines (Platte County Sheriff Richard Anderson has even gone so far as to say at a recent meeting of the Platte Republican Association that his office has "virtually eliminated meth from Platte County) neighboring counties have not had the same success.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control, Buchanan County had 51 meth lab busts in 2002. Since January, the Platte County Sheriff's Dept. has busted a total of 3 labs. Statewide, the number of meth lab busts have been doubling nearly every year since 1999.

"We've been working with the DEA professionally and personally for quite some time now," said Captain Paul Carrill of the Platte County Sheriff's Department.

Carrill said that the department has two detectives assigned to work with the DEA at Kansas City International Airport and three others who work with the DEA in street level enforcement.

"It's very important that our officers coordinate, cooperate and communicate with the DEA," Carrill explained, adding that local, state and federal officers needed to team together to effectively accomplish their crime fighting goals.

"The people who deal in drugs don't care about county lines and state boundaries."
Graves has made his position known on the matter consistently while in office. When then DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson visited Kansas City last September, Graves was also on hand to ask for more help from the agency. Hutchinson agreed with Graves for the increased need.

“400 FBI agents are being pulled from the war on drugs fight to target terrorism,” Hutchison said then. “While I think the FBI is making the right decision to focus all of their efforts on terrorism, the DEA is going to work hard to fill that gap being vacated.”

Graves believes the time is now.
"Our success in eliminating the drug threat will depend on how much we invest in this fight," Graves said. "Any cost of opening a new DEA office is not as high as the cost of having too many Missouri children's lives devastated by drugs. We simply cannot afford to fail.”