U.S. Sen. John Hoeven has asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to bring more agents to western North Dakota to help combat increased drug trafficking.
Hoeven and Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the DEA, discussed options over the week to secure support for the Bakken’s drug enforcement effort. The agency currently has agents assigned to Fargo and Bismarck.
“It’s critical that the DEA dedicate sufficient staff, both full-time and on an as-needed basis, to help fight drug crimes,” Hoeven said in a statement. “This includes assigning DEA agents to local narcotic task forces in western North Dakota and providing more agency support. I urged Administrator Leonhart to work with local and state officials to get DEA agents into the field as soon as possible.”
Hoeven previously wrote a letter to Leonhart, calling for additional support for local communities in light of new crime statistics showing an increase in drug related activities. Leonhart has said the Bakken region has been designated a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and is on the list of special needs locations.
Leonhart said she is taking steps to assist western North Dakota law enforcement officers, according to a press release from the senator’s office.
The DEA has made its Internet Connectivity Endeavor, or DICE, program available to law enforcement in North Dakota, according to the press release. The program is an extensive database of information about suspects and drug activity that helps law enforcement officers share information and determine if the federal government has the same or similar information.
Leonhart said she has scheduled two basic drug investigation training sessions in North Dakota during the last two weeks of August.
The DEA has scheduled 40 separate temporary duty agents assigned to western North Dakota since October to work with local law enforcement and task forces. Leonhart has said she is evaluating the agency’s resources to see what can be deployed to help law enforcement in western North Dakota on a more permanent basis.
The North Dakota Attorney General’s office released a report including a summary evaluation of the status of drugs in July.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation said drug arrests increased by 286 percent in the past 22 years, from 745 in 1990 to 2,872 in 2012, according to the report.
There was a notable increase in drug trafficking organizations, with direct connections to cartels in Mexico.
“These DTOs are operating predominantly in the western part of North Dakota,” the report read. “Recent investigations lead us to believe that multiple pounds of meth are being trafficked through the Bakken on a weekly basis. Other drug trafficking and use has increased as well including prescription drug abuse, cocaine, heroin and high potency marijuana.”
BCI drug case numbers have increased, and the complexity of these cases present “even greater challenges and a more dangerous environment for agents.”
“The focus of BCI’s enforcement efforts has transitioned from investigating and arresting local dealers who dealt in grams and ounces, to investigations of dealers distributing many pound of product,” according to the report. “The vast majority of drug dealers now are armed and organized, with potentially more tendencies towards violence.”
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