More than 2,200 miles separate Williston and Culiacán, Sinaloa, but that hasn’t stopped that Mexican state’s namesake cartel from setting up shop in the Bakken, according to state and federal law enforcement officials.
To combat the rise of cartels and other organized crime in the Bakken, those officials — including U.S. Attorneys Mike Cotter, of Montana, and Chris Myers, of North Dakota, and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem — announced Wednesday the creation of a strike force that will coordinate local, state and federal officials on both sides of the North Dakota and Montana border.
“It’s not just a Montana problem. It’s not just a North Dakota problem. It’s truly a regional problem,” Cotter said.
Bruce Ohr, director of the Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, was on hand for the announcement on Wednesday, which officials said was a sign of how serious the U.S. government is taking crime in the Bakken region.
Myers said 50 agents, from law enforcement agencies across North Dakota, would be tapped for the new strike force, which is the spiritual successor to 2013’s Project Safe Bakken.
Project Safe Bakken marked the beginning of coordination between Montana, North Dakota and the U.S. government to address rising crime in the region. That crime includes drug trafficking, particularly heroin and methamphetamine, as well as human trafficking, gun running and white collar crime, including scammers claiming to have oil rights for sale.
Cotter said the new strike force is intended to be a “force multiplier” of that project: more money, resources and agents on the ground, including four new positions on the Montana side of the border.
The strike force will be based out of four offices — in Williston, Dickinson, Bismarck and Minot — and each office will have a state- or federal-level prosecutor assigned to it.
In addition, Myers said that from the strike force’s early stages of planning, prosecutors placed a high priority on working with tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address the growing crime in the Fort Peck and Fort Berhold Indian Reservations.
Though he declined to discuss specifics, Stenehjem said the public would be hearing about the strike force’s efforts in the near future.
“I can just guarantee you, we’re going to get results,” he said.
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Source: Bismarck Tribune, “Law enforcement organizes efforts in Bakken” Andrew Sheeler, June 3, 2015.