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      U.P. drug task force faces budget cuts

      As drug-related crime continues to grow in the U.P., the team tasked to fight the trend faces a decreasing budget.

      "Kind of concerning to me is that we have to look for other sources and other avenues of funding basically to keep the doors open, so we keep the operation running," said George Sailer of the Michigan State Police.

      Founded in 1988, UPSET (Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team) is made up of seven law enforcement agencies across the U.P. that work in 12 counties. Its funding is split into two parts, personnel costs and operation costs.

      For years, the team has relied on a federal grant to cover half of members' wages, but this year, UPSET saw a $56,000 cut.

      UPSET's operating funding has also decreased to $188,000 from over $200,000 a year ago, and UPSET officials say those cuts directly impact their work out on the streets.

      Ron Koski is a detective with the Michigan State Police and assigned to UPSET. According to Koski, there has been a substantial increase in drugs, like methamphetamine, over the years, which has led to a spike in home and car break-ins.

      "You start dealing with methamphetamine and heroin, and you're talking about two very addictive drugs," said Koski. "Once you get addicted to these things, these people will do anything they can to get their money to get their next fix."

      Included in the operating costs is the money used to train new recruits and purchase illegal drugs, all of which could be affected by budget cuts.

      "For the street guys, it's easier for us to do their job if they're not worrying about how much money they can spend or not spend," Koski said. "They're worried about the job they have to do and not, are we going to break the budget trying to do the case."

      UPSET is now looking to local governments, private businesses, and independent donors to help keep the operation running.

      "Anybody that wants to help contribute or donate or has an idea for us to keep the fight against drugs, we're more than happy to accept," Sailer said.