Strike force to target organized crime in oil boom region
BISMARCK - Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are marshaling more than 50 agents to target human traffickers, illegal drug and weapons distributors, white-collar criminals and other organized crime in the oil-producing regions of N...
BISMARCK – Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are marshaling more than 50 agents to target human traffickers, illegal drug and weapons distributors, white-collar criminals and other organized crime in the oil-producing regions of North Dakota and Montana, authorities announced Wednesday.
The Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force consists of existing law enforcement officers assigned to four task forces – each partnered with a state-federal prosecutor – that will coordinate investigations from Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot and Williston.
“The focus is going to change,” said Chris Myers, acting U.S. attorney for North Dakota. “We are going to focus on the worst of the worst criminal organizations in the Bakken.”
Myers made the announcement with North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter and Bruce Ohr, director of the director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
Stenehjem said North Dakota has seen an “alarming” increase in drug and human trafficking during the state’s oil boom, with the number of drug cases rising from 385 in 2010 to 1,269 in 2014, according to preliminary figures. The nature of the drug activities is “much more serious than what they have been before,” he said, with direct pipelines from drug suppliers and heavily armed distributors.
The strike force comes on the heels of Project Safe Bakken, a program created in 2013 that joined federal, state and tribal law enforcement agencies in North Dakota and Montana to fight criminal activity in the Bakken.
A new FBI office being built in Williston also will supplement the strike force, officials said.