Law enforcement in Harvey County joining forces to revive drug task force

NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – Five years ago, the Harvey County Drug Task Force was disbanded.

This came after grants that helped fund it went away.

Ever since, just one detective has been dedicated to investigating drug cases in the county.

Seeing there was a need, the Newton Police Department and the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office are reviving the task force.

Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy says they’ve been working behind on the scenes for months toward bringing it back.

He says originally, the task force had two dedicated detectives assigned to it.

“I know that at one point the grant funding went away and both detective positions were absorbed within the Newton Police Department at that time,” said Chief Murphy.

Chief Murphy says since they were no longer receiving additional funding to help support that and all the funding was coming from the city of Newton, the focus was narrowed.

“We decided we needed to focus on drug issues within the city of Newton, instead of the entire county,” said Chief Murphy.

Preliminary numbers in the last year show, that the one Newton Police Department detective investigated 129 cases.

That includes 30 cases for marijuana and 28 for methamphetamine.

Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay they’ve had general investigators for all crimes, like thefts, burglaries, probably some drug crimes.

However, Gay says most of the concentration wasn’t on drug investigations.

“As far as personnel and actively assisting with the drug investigations, it was non-existent,” said Sheriff Gay.

Both Sheriff Gay and Chief Murphy admit, it was a lot for one detective to take on.

“Currently, we have two individuals dedicated to work drugs in Harvey County and on the task force, one from the city of Newton and one from the Harvey County Sheriff’s Department,” said Chief Murphy.

Chief Murphy told KSN they decided to bring back the task force, even before one high-profile drug case that ended in a triple homicide last year.

Right now, Chief Murphy and Sheriff Gay say the drug numbers aren’t alarming.

However, there is enough cause for concern to rededicating more people to fight the problem in the county.

Chief Murphy says the Newton Police Department had already budgeted their portion to help bring back the task force.

He also says they have put in grant applications for additional equipment to help fund it.

Chief Murphy and Sheriff Gay say right now, the revival of the task force is still in its infancy.

They say they are working on the details of just how it will operate going forward.