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Local DTF director on drugs, trends, and open borders

DTF Director Ron Lafferty is also Vice President of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association (KNAO) and a member of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC). Screenshot | Glasgow EPB

By Allyson Dix

Jobe Publishing, Inc.

 

The Barren River Drug Task Force, established in 2003, just surpassed its 20th anniversary in 2023 and the Director of the task force, Ron Lafferty, shared details and trends as it relates to the task force and drug issues our community faces in the Feb. 26 Glasgow City Council meeting.

Lafferty, was hired as a police officer in 1999 before starting with the Barren County Sheriff’s Office in 2004, where he worked as a detective for ten years in the DTF, became the director in 2014.

“One of the things I promised when I became director is to educate the public on the trends and the things going on in our community,” Lafferty said.

“The mission of the drug task force is to prosecute mid and upper-level drug traffickers,” Lafferty said. “If we focused on just users, we would never be able to cut the head off the snake – so that’s what we’re designed to do…”

Lafferty said communities must know what problems they are facing and the things underway to improve those and make them better.

The Barren River DTF currently consists of the Glasgow Police Department, Barren County Sheriff’s Office, Cave City Police Department, and Metcalfe County Sheriff’s Office. Lafferty said the local DTF is also hoping to expand soon to include other agencies.

Lafferty, who is Vice President of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association (KNAO) and a member of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC), said the local task force is more than just a few police officers fighting drugs.

More so, Lafferty discussed his recent trip to Washington, D.C. last month where the Barren River DTF and three other DTF agencies, South Central DTF, Greater Hardin DTF, and Bowling Green DTF, met with different members of Congress to discuss the problems that Barren and Metcalfe Counties face when it comes to drugs including Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressmen Brett Guthrie, Jamie Comer, and Andy Barr.

“Those are the four main DTFs represented in D.C.,” Lafferty said. “That means a lot when the NNOHC is asked by members of Congress to participate in legislation of how we can combat the problems we’re having right now [and] what we can do to help fund the problems.”

“You’re not only getting a little small area DTF,” Lafferty explained. “You’re getting a whole nation working together. We work with the FBI, DEA, ATF, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Postal Inspector.”

Lafferty would later explain to The Barren County Progress that around 20 people were involved in a 2.5-year investigation that, for the most part, finished up late last year. Barren River DTF worked with the aforementioned federal-level agencies on this case.

He also elaborated on the benefits having officers that are continuously communicating with one another from different areas, even outside Kentucky.

Lafferty shared an example from a couple of years ago where someone in Texas made contact with police in Tennessee to tip off what they believed to be a large shipment of Fentanyl pills coming to the area. Tennessee missed it, Lafferty said.

“So they called us, and because we knew them, most times police officers will call other officers they know…they said, ‘I think we missed it; here’s what’s coming into your area.’”

Ultimately, Lafferty said after a four-hour wait on I-65, the vehicle was found, a stop was made, and 9,000 pills of Fentanyl were seized that was headed to Columbus, Ohio. Aside from the initial arrests, two or three others are facing federal indictments on this case.

“We know what happens when it goes north,” Lafferty said, “It runs downhill.”

Lafferty said Barren and Metcalfe Counties are not exempt from the “huge Fentanyl problem” but it’s an issue everywhere.

While the director confirmed the local DTF is limited in its authority in other counties and states, the federal partners do have that authority.

“That’s what you get with the task force – it’s not just here, it expands,” Lafferty said. “We work cases out of state sometimes, out of county sometimes, [but] every case starts here. We work on something, we follow it to where it leads.”

Lafferty gave another example of sending two local detectives to California a couple of years ago who were working a case of methamphetamine being shipped into Barren County.

“We caught the guy that was getting it, found out who was shipping it, sent them out there, and got them and arrested them,” Lafferty said. “They went for federal charges.”

“I think it’s a great thing when you have all these agencies working together for the common good and it’s in Barren County,” he added.

 

Stats and Trends

 Lafferty provided statistics on the last 20 years as well as the 2023 year in review.

In the last 20 years, Barren River DTF has seized nearly $9,000,000 worth of drugs within our community including 83 pounds of methamphetamine. Lafferty said the local DTF has worked 4,044 cases.

 

Property seized including guns, computers, and vehicles total around $451,000. The number of firearms seized was at its highest in 2023 with nearly 100 firearms. In comparison, years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 saw around 40 firearms per year. Twenty firearms were seized in 2018, around 10 or less in the years 2021 and 2022.

The number of firearms seized took a drastic increase in 2023. Graphic | Ron Lafferty, Barren River Drug Task Force

Heroin and cocaine peaked in 2021, but are now nearly non-existent, at least since 2017; marijuana peaked in 2022, but has significantly decreased to its lowest point since 2017.

Since 2003 (meth) and 2014 (crystal meth), which is shown on a chart Lafferty provided, methamphetamine and crystal meth has substantially increased topping out in 2023. However, in the first two months of this year, crystal meth has reached nearly half the amounts seen in all of 2021 and 2022 separately.

“We all remember the days of meth labs, they were everywhere,” he said.

“It was a bad time in all of our areas. But now we’ve got crystal meth. We thought we had a bad problem with meth labs and the meth producer meth labs. No, not so much.”

Lafferty said 2021 was a record year for meth, “I never dreamed we would surpass that much meth. In 2022, we did beat it, and in 2023, never in a million years would I thought we’d seize that much meth.”

“Meth is a huge problem and people ask me why we are seeing that much,” Lafferty said. “I don’t play politics, but the plain and simple fact is our borders are open – whoever is the cause of it, whatever reason. That’s why so much is coming across.”

The director explained after the meeting that when discussing meth versus crystal meth, meth is the man-made versions during the years of meth labs. However, crystal meth has more potency, around 95%, and is much cheaper due to the supply being so abundant, which also, for the most part, comes across the Mexico-United States border.

Crystal meth, a derivative of Methamphetamine rose sharply in 2023. Graphic | Ron Lafferty, Barren River Drug Task Force

Excluding the one-off of the 9,000 Fentanyl pills seized traveling across state lines, Lafferty said 2023 was a record year and already in 2024, “We’re getting ready to pass 2023.”

Prescription pills, on the other hand, have decreased. “Thanks to legislation…it’s harder to doctor shop anymore; I’m glad to see at least that has gone down,” Lafferty said.

The director also said the non-existence of heroin is seen because of the increase in Fentanyl.

Looking at 2023 alone, 90% of the 163.9 grams of Fentanyl seized came from the Glasgow city limits with the rest from Barren County (4%), Cave City (6%), and none from Metcalfe County.

The rise in Fentanyl in 2024 is already close to the total for 2023. Graphic | Ron Lafferty, Barren River Drug Task Force

Other percentages for 2023 totals seized by the Barren River Drug Task Force:

Crystal Meth, 13,472 grams seized – Barren County (32%); Glasgow (39%); Cave City (14%); and Metcalfe County (15%).

Powder Cocaine, 31.2 grams seized – Barren County (5%); Glasgow (64%); Cave City (26%); and Metcalfe County (6%).

Pills Sch. II, 79.5 dose units seized – Barren County (34%); Glasgow (30%); Cave City (3%); and Metcalfe County (33%).

Pills Sch. III, 53 dose units seized – Barren County (89%); and Other (11%).

Pills Sch. IV, 155.5 dose units seized – Barren County (16%); Glasgow (13%); Cave City (71%); and Metcalfe County (1%).

Pills Sch. V, 9 dose units seized – Metcalfe County (100%).

Processed marijuana, 6,228 grams seized – Barren County (56%); Glasgow (30%); Cave City (3%); Metcalfe (1%); and Other (10%).

Synthetic marijuana (spice, K2, etc.), 24.24 grams seized – Barren County (10%) and Glasgow (90%).

Ninety-six guns seized – Barren County (21%); Glasgow (26%); Cave City (2%); Metcalfe County (21%); and Other (30%).

Additionally, 12 grams of ecstasy were seized in Glasgow in 2023.

*Other indicates seizures that had investigations started in Barren and/or Metcalfe Counties, but led to other counties or federal-level investigations.

 

Battling the Drug Crisis

After the meeting, Lafferty shared how, when he started, it was a difficult to get people to call and provide information, but that has changed and citizens have developed a trust with the agency to know their identities are protected.

“I don’t think people realize – we can’t do this by ourselves, we can’t fight this battle by ourselves,” Lafferty told The Barren County Progress.

“I appreciate the fiscal courts, city councils, mayors, judges, sheriffs, chiefs, the road officers, and the general public, probably most of all, because wouldn’t have nothing without them,” Lafferty said.

“We have to do it as a community and not as individuals – that’s the only way to fight it,” he concluded. “I really want to thank them for helping us battle this problem, we couldn’t do it without them.”

Meth levels rose considerably in 2023 in the Barren County area. Graphic | Ron Lafferty, Barren River Drug Task Force

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