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Future uncertain for Cyber Crimes Task Force because of lack of funds

A Mid-Missouri task force could get shut down for a lack of state funding.

About 12 agencies across the state make up the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. And since its creation in 2007, it has received a grant each year from the state worth about $1.5 million. But so far this year, no money has been released.

The Boone County Cyber Crimes Task Force said it is very dependent on a portion of that yearly grant because it is the only source of funding. It pays for two detectives’ salaries, equipment, training, licensing fees, overtime and more.

Usually, the task force applies for the grant before its fiscal year on June 1st and receives it a few weeks later. But this year, Tracy Perkins said the grant never got approved and was put on a halt because the governor froze the funds.

Tracy Perkins, Boone Co. Cyber Crimes Task Force: “We’re still employed. We’re still doing what we’re supposed to do as law enforcement officers. But we also have to consider the long term, the ‘what if?’ and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. We’re coming a little bit more cautious and trying to figure out where is this going? What’s the long term? What’s our future going to entail for the task force?”

The Cyber Crimes Task Force investigates crimes that exploit children on the internet. Most of the time, that includes tracking the distribution of child pornography.

From October 2012 to February 2013, it investigated more than 4,600 cases in Missouri, according to the Cyber Crime Grant Program reports.

The Boone County Cyber Crime Task Force also serves multiple surrounding counties including Cole, Callaway, Howard, Audrain, Cooper and Randolph.

It applied for about a $140,000 budget through the grant this year. And without that money, it has to borrow from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Dwayne Carey said right now, they are using money from open positions in the jail to keep the task force afloat until the money is released by the governor.

But if that grant is not released by the next fiscal year, he said in all likelihood, the task force will be shut down. He said it will be up to the auditor and commissioner. But the possibility of the Sheriff’s Department picking up the two full-time position salaries and the equipment costs is low.

Perkins: “I’m worried because we’ve worked so hard. But I have a belief that we will continue on with our journey even if the money’s not there. But it will be really hard.”

Governor Nixon’s Office says the money has not been released to the Department of Public Safety because the governor said the legislature passed a budget $800 million out of balance.

The governor’s office said if funds do become available this fiscal year, Gov. Nixon will reevaluate the restricted spending areas.

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