WEST FRANKFORT — City Council will vote Tuesday whether to approve the city’s police department joining forces with the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force.
The SIDTF is a multi-jurisdiction task force run out of the Illinois State Police District 13 office that focuses on helping small police departments in the state investigate narcotic crimes in their areas.
There are two types of membership. To be a participating agency, a department supplies on officer and furnishes their needed supplies to the SIDTF in exchange for coverage under the task force. There is also a contributing agency status, which requires a yearly payment made to the organization; this is the route Mike Irwin, West Frankfort’s chief of police, hopes the city will take.
Irwin, who took the leading position in the department last year, praised his officers' work since he joined the department, but said joining the SIDTF will help them take their work to the next level.
“It’s one of the logical progressions of what we are doing,” Irwin said. By joining the network of many other regional departments, Irwin said the flow of information will be greatly beneficial to curbing drug and drug-related offenses — not just in West Frankfort, but in Franklin County, as well.
“It gives us a dedicated investigative arm focusing strictly on narcotics,” Irwin said.
Irwin said joining the SIDTF was an easy sell. West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan and the city’s police commissioner Jerry Harkins have thrown their full support behind the idea and Irwin.
“As long as it’s financially feasible and it makes sense, we are going to give them all the tools that we can in order to fight crime and drugs,” Jordan said. He said he sees offering this kind of support as being a key role of an effective administrator.
“If I ask you to do something, then I need to give you the ability to be successful,” Jordan said.
Harkins said the $8,000 annual payment — which is roughly $1 per person in the city — is not cheap, but he said he sees it as necessary. He said there is power in numbers, and this will help make West Frankfort’s police department all the more effective.
Both Harkins and Jordan said they believed the council would vote in support of the measure.
Irwin said West Frankfort is not unlike any other small town in Southern Illinois. It has its share of problems with drugs, and he said becoming members of the SIDTF will only make them stronger in dealing with these issues.
“The logical force-multiplier we can use is the Drug Task Force. That’s their primary mission,” he said. “Their expertise in investigation and long-term conspiracy cases is going to be a big plus for us.”
Irwin said as a leader of the department, it’s his job to think big picture. He said the problem is not just the sale and consumption of illegal drugs, but the ripple effect these actions have on the community. He said with drug addiction comes petty theft, burglaries, child abuse and child neglect — it is not just a personal problem, but a community problem. He hopes by joining the SIDTF, he can see these quality of life problems addressed in an even bigger way.
“It’s just one more step in us being proactive,” Irwin said.
The West Frankfort City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in West Frankfort City Hall.