Kootenai County Sheriff's Department donates $40,000

Funds seized in drug busts given to Idaho Meth Project

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SHAWN GUST/Press Major ben Wolfinger with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department introduces personnel as Idaho's First Lady Lori Otter looks on Friday during a press conference in Coeur d'Alene. The department presented Otter and the Idaho Meth Project with a donation of $40,000.

COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department presented the Idaho Meth Project with $40,000 in seized drug money.

The money represents 10 percent of the drug-seizure proceeds from the previous year that sheriff's department deputies accumulated.

"This is drug dealer money we're using against them," Maj. Ben Wolfinger of the sheriff's department said at a press conference Friday at the Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn.

The check was presented to Idaho first lady Lori Otter on behalf of the Idaho Meth Project.

The project is a statewide drug-prevention program that uses public-service messaging, public policy and community outreach. It was launched in response to the state's methamphetamine problem.

Potent, low-cost methamphetamine is readily available and abused throughout the state.

Last year's donation was just more than $5,000. Wolfinger said the department has been able to put more manpower into making drug seizures, leading to more of them and a larger contribution to the meth project.

"Methamphetamine has been a huge problem here for years and years," Wolfinger said.

The money is a "huge" contribution toward the effort of preventing first-time methamphetamine use, Otter said.

"To me this is the Idaho spirit," she said. "We're going to not only arrest you and put you away, but we're also going to take your money and we're going to use it against you."

During the past 13 months, 739 pounds of marijuana and 2.2 pounds of methamphetamine has been seized by deputies in the county.

"We're talking a huge amount of drugs here," Wolfinger said.

Deputies have seized nearly $830,000 in cash, and 13 vehicles, and made 29 drug-related arrests.

"About 80 percent of our inmates are there because of drug-related issues," Wolfinger said. "We'd like to reduce our jail population. Prevention has to be the way, because we can't do it all through enforcement."

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