UMKC Law Review


In 1989, Jackson County, Missouri, made history - voters passed the first tax solely dedicated to funding substance abuse prevention and treatment. Today, the COMmunity Backed Anti-Crime Tax ("COMBAT") continues to annually generate between $25 to $30 million that supports Jackson County courts, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, local law enforcement agencies, and nonprofit organizations focusing on prevention and treatment. COMBAT has achieved success through its de-emphasis on punitive law enforcement practices and emphasis on public health. Instead of focusing on the prosecution of drug-related offenses, COMBAT is leading a more holistic "War on Drugs" by funding community-based resources to mentor youth, to help crime victims regain their footing, and to treat drug addiction. Furthermore, COMBAT enables local law enforcement to take alternative approaches to fighting drug crimes by shutting down drug houses or diverting non-violent drug offenders to Drug Court. Under COMBAT, the 1990's "War on Drugs" approach is replaced with a more peaceful and successful approach to creating safe Jackson County communities.

This Article will initially delve into COMBAT and its crucial role in addressing substance abuse and violence throughout Jackson County. Section II of this Article will provide a brief history of COMBAT, discussing its origin in 1989 through its most recent renewal. Section III will explore how COMBAT has achieved success through its public health model focusing on prevention and treatment and will also discuss several COMBAT-supported programs to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the tax. Section IV outlines the role of the local legislature in making COMBAT a success and the recent COMBAT rebranding efforts to promote a community-based model. Finally, Part IV offers advice for other jurisdictions interested in starting their own COMBAT.