Drug busts pay off for Waterloo Police Department - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drug busts pay off for Waterloo Police Department

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Whomever said "crime doesn't pay" wasn't talking to the Waterloo Police Department. Last year alone, the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Task Force -- made up of officers from Black Hawk and Bremer Counties -- seized more than two million dollars in illegal drugs. They also confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money.

"Frequently, when we investigate drug investigations, we seize money, we seize property. And it just so happened that we had funds available for a project like this," said Dan Trelka, Director of Safety Services for the City of Waterloo.

The newest crime-fighting tool for Waterloo Police is a $16,000 John Deere ATV -- paid for by local drug dealers.

"That's payment for us spending so much time investigating their criminal behavior," Trelka noted.

Sergeant Hector Camarin was the lucky guy who got to take the ATV out on a test drive with our cameras. Topping out at about 30 mph, it's clearly not ideal for a high speed chase. But it is incredibly useful when officers need to go into off-road situations. Camarin explained, they used ATVs loaned to them by John Deere during the 2008 flood. Now, they'll have their own in case of an emergency.

Trelka said, the vehicle is already proving useful.

"Just this morning, we had a report of a meth lab in an isolated area of the city. So the officers just grabbed the gator, drove out there. Because we couldn't get the squad car out there. On a hot, humid day like today, with the officers with all their equipment on, it would have been difficult to walk out there," he recalled.

Law enforcement agencies are limited to purchasing specialized equipment with seized money. So for example, they can't get a new, standard squad car, but they can purchase night-vision goggles. And it can take years for items to go from the evidence room to the parking lot.

"It's very similar to getting a conviction for a defendant. Very similar process. Takes about the same amount of time," Trelka said.

When officers are able to turn a crime into a payoff.... it does feel pretty good.

"Crime does pay -- for us!" Trelka laughed.

Another example of a drug seizure put to good use -- the Waterloo Bomb Squad recently turned a seized trailer into a response vehicle for their department.

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