OZARK, Mo. -- Tightening of belts could mean fewer drug busts in the Ozarks.
The elite drug task force COMET (Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team) is suffering under the economic crisis.
Over the past two decades, it's been a cornerstone of major drug busts in southwest Missouri.
"Gives us a greater range and operating ability to work undercover drug operations," says Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle.
With an economic squeeze, Sheriff Kyle says you may see fewer meth busts.
"It's put the COMET task force into an operational deficit, funding-wise. We're cutting overtime. So far, through attrition, we haven't had to cut any employees, but through attrition we haven't been rehiring employees."
As an example of the cuts from state and federal funding, Sheriff Kyle says he has to look no farther than his own department. They used to receive state and federal grants totaling several hundred thousand dollars. Now they're receiving nothing.
"When I took office, the sheriff's office was looking at $150,000-$250,000 a year in grant money available to it. We are not getting any now."
Many agencies make up the COMET Drug Task Force, including multiple sheriff's departments, police departments and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
"This is not an 8-5 Monday through Friday job," adds Sheriff Kyle. "These guys are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They go where they are needed when they are needed, not when it's convenient for them to work."
Now the fear is that this task force will not be able to provide the kind of enforcement they have in the past because of these cuts.
"They are going to have to be much more judicious and much more discerning about spending overtime."
COMET is also relied on for assistance by many local law enforcement agencies. They also aid those agencies in beefing up their own drug task forces.