FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Police in Floyd County hit the streets on Wednesday looking for drugs.
Officers say new Kentucky laws designed to reduce jail over-crowding made undercover operations too expensive, so they are changing how they fight the war on drugs.
Wednesday afternoon, police set-up a safety checkpoint in Auxier, a community police say gets a lot of drug complaints. Officers checked every car and driver on Route 3051. In just the first hour, they arrested three people on suspicion of being under the influence.
"If you can get one drunk driver off the road, it helps, maybe save my life or someone else's life," said Sheriff John K. Blackburn.
The checkpoint was a welcome sight to some living in Auxier.
"I'm glad to see them do it myself. Maybe they'll get rid of a lot of drugs, thieves, it just needs to be done," said Ed Bowers.
The checkpoint is part of the new Floyd County drug
interdiction program designed to find drug dealers and abusers.
"The way the new laws are, it's harder to get out and do undercover buys. The expenses are kind of out our range at this time, so we're going to high visibility, drug intervention type deals and combine our forces with all law enforcement," said Bryan Hall, Prestonsburg Police Assistant Chief.
"So maybe they'll come through our road check and get arrested," said Sheriff Blackburn.
Police say Wednesday's checkpoint is just the first of many. They are planning many more events in other areas of Floyd County.
Now the agencies are looking for new ways to fight the drug epidemic.
The agencies say the change is due to budget problems and a new law designed to ease jail overcrowding. The change means undercover officers have to buy more pills from alleged dealers.
"Now I have to buy so many Oxycontins. If I have to buy ten, that's a thousand dollars and plus pay my informant, we just can't afford to do it; a small department can't afford to do it," said Bryan Hall, Prestonsburg Police Assistant Chief.
Hall says what used to cost around $300 to build a felony case now costs $2,700 per alleged dealer.
"Funding is a major issue for smaller agencies, especially with the economy and budgets either being cut or staying the same," said Jonathan Eperson, Paintsville Police Detective.
"Pretty much, effectively shut us down," said Hall.
"It's a shame because most of the crime in this area is stemming from the drug trade," said Eperson.
Several different police agencies met Wednesday in Prestonsburg to discuss the problem and look for solutions.
"As of right now, we'll do what we can do. We're not quitting, but we're not going to be able to work the way we were," said Hall.
The agencies say they are planning to pool resources and work together. They will no longer focus on individual investigations and will move to interdiction, looking for drugs in more safety checkpoints.
"Going from basically working narcotics and undercover, it's going to be high visibility and in your face law enforcement," said Hall.
Police say larger agencies like Operation UNITE and KSP will continue undercover drug investigations.
Police say the new laws also affect theft case arrests. They say
someone accused of stealing less than $500 from someone else will get a citation instead of going to jail.