In December 2009, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper and member of the newly formed Domestic Highway Enforcement Team (DHET) was on duty when he pulled over a U-Haul truck for following too closely behind a 1999 Cadillac on I-70 in Hays, Kansas. After the trooper ticketed the driver of the U-Haul for the traffic violation, he proceeded to a nearby gas station where he again observed the Cadillac that had been tailgated earlier by the U-Haul. The officer spoke to the driver of the Cadillac and eventually requested consent to search the vehicle. However, the subject refused and fled the area on foot, leaving the Cadillac behind. With the assistance of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and a drug-sniffing police dog, the troopers uncovered 270 pounds—roughly 436,000 pills and $8.7 million in street value—of the illegal drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly referred to as ecstasy. The fleeing suspect was later traced to a nearby motel room and arrested.
This seizure represents one of the largest roadside drug seizures in history by state and local law enforcement and was made possible by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Last year, the State of Kansas received more than $4 million in Recovery Act funding dedicated to rural states and communities. The funding has helped strengthen the Kansas Highway Patrol and establish three DHETs. DHETs are specialized teams of law enforcement that focus on deterring drug related crime and improving traffic safety through highly visible and targeted patrols.
While this drug bust is a significant achievement, Kansas’s Recovery Act grant has helped the state accomplish much more in its fight against crime. Information from the ecstasy case led to seizure of an additional 26 pounds of ecstasy in Texas and 110 pounds of marijuana in Washington State. To date, the DHET has made 10 DUI arrests; seized more than 3,660 pounds of marijuana, 42 pounds of meth, 103 pounds of cocaine, 26 vehicles and more than $1.5 million in currency. The DHET also uncovered an identity theft ring stemming from a traffic stop and arrest that is currently under investigation. In addition, the work of the DHET in drug and currency seizures has resulted in more than 250 felony drug citations and 127 custodial arrests.
The State of Kansas has also used its Recovery Act grant to support jobs and obtain necessary tools and training for the Highway Patrol. In November, the Highway Patrol used its grant to hire 20 full-time staff for the DHET team, including five drug detecting handlers and dogs. The DHET has been trained on basic interdiction methods, concealments, and how to identify possible threats related to passenger and commercial vehicles. In addition, this grant has allowed Kansas to hire a class of 22 new recruit troopers who began basic training at the end of March.
Funding has also been used to obtain needed equipment. For example, the DHET was able to purchase an X-Ray detection vehicle that can detect the presence of radiological or low-density organic materials like explosives or drugs hidden inside metal structures. The DHET team recently deployed the vehicle to scan a tractor-trailer stopped on I-70 near Topeka. As a result, troopers discovered approximately 70 pounds of cocaine hidden in a false compartment in the truck, something Kansas Highway Patrol and experienced drug interdiction officers say most likely would not have been found without this X-ray detection vehicle.
The Recovery Act has also helped put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges in our country, especially in rural areas like Kansas. Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent, Colonel Terry L. Maple said, "The Patrol is appreciative of this opportunity, which wouldn't have otherwise existed during these fiscally challenging times. Federal grant funding provided through this program has positively impacted traffic and public safety in rural Kansas." Colonel Maple went on to say, "Partnerships like these, which exist between all levels of government, benefit the citizens we serve."
Through the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Department of Justice has invested $125 million in over 200 rural states and communities under the Recovery Act Assistance to Rural Law Enforcement to Combat Crime and Drugs Program. This program encourages the creation and retention of jobs in order to provide rural communities with the resources to prevent and combat crime, especially drug-related crime. Grants have been awarded to rural communities to improve law enforcement investigations, enhance detention, corrections, and jail operations, facilitate justice information sharing, and make recovery possible for Americans, key focuses of the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice.