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HC Sheriff's Office joins Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force

'Golden opportunity' to pool resources, manpower to investigate cases, sheriff says

The partnership between the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force is a “golden opportunity” for law enforcement officers to solve cases more efficiently, Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee said.

Partnering with the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force will allow the Henry County Sherriff’s Office, the Burlington Police Department and the Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office to more easily collaborate on cases, sharing investigative reports across the three departments for every officer to be aware of the information already gathered.

“If we have a case of drug activity in Henry County, we can pool their resources to help us do surveillance, a search warrant, dismantle a meth lab, harvest marijuana or whatever the case may be, and they can pool our resources as well,” McNamee said.

The Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force was also recently awarded the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant award of $38,688, which is being shared with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies partnering with the task force.

McNamee said the funding is an added bonus, although the pooling of resources and manpower to investigate narcotics cases is the biggest draw to the task force, which is regionalizing drug crime investigations in southeast Iowa.

McNamee said that over the last couple of years, his department has seen an increase in crystal meth, which he thinks is being trafficked in Henry County from out of the country.

“We’re seeing a big tie to the Burlington area for that,” McNamee said. “A lot of our casework is leading us toward or into Burlington.”

With the amount of crystal meth coming in to southeast Iowa, McNamee said it has gotten cheaper. A few years ago, a fairly large meth bust turned up meth at $10,000 a pound. Now, it’s only $1,000 a pound, McNamee said.

“We’re catching more people with meth ice,” McNamee said. “You’re buying it cheap and you don’t have to get the ingredients.”

An investigator with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office — whose name was asked to be kept anonymous — is meth lab certified, meaning that he has specific training to dismantle a meth lab safely, McNamee said. While cases in Henry County will take precedence, McNamee said the investigator may spend some time at the Burlington Police Department, the host agency for the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force, to work narcotics cases. He even has office space waiting for him there.

“Criminal cases here take precedent,” McNamee said. “If we have a homicide or string of burglaries or another major case, he will work those here. In his spare time, he may get called down (to the Burlington Police Department) or go there on a quiet day to see what they have working and what they’re looking at so he can compare it with his notes to see if anything matches up.”

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office used to be a member of a drug task force out of Ottumwa, but McNamee said they disconnected with them when he took office. With Ottumwa being in Wapello County and Jefferson County in between Wapello and Henry County, McNamee said there was a break in the territory. Many of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office drug bust cases are already leading into Burlington. Joining the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force seemed natural, McNamee said. The Henry County Sheriff’s Office continues to share information with the Ottumwa narcotics task force.

Similarly, McNamee said the Henry County Sheriff’s Office was already working with Des Moines County and the Burlington Police Department on narcotics cases. Joining the task force just makes it official and easier to do so by sharing information more openly.

“I am excited about it,” McNamee said. “Any time you can increase your enforcement efforts without having to hire a bunch of people is good. We’re pooling our resources and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.”