Substance Abuse Alert: Dangers drug task force agents, informants face

BISMARCK, N.D. - Being a law enforcement officer comes with an inherent amount of risk. And, undercover operations with potentially violent criminals significantly up the ante.

While they're executed in just minutes, raids by the metro narcotics task force take months of research and weeks of planning.

"This is from google maps, but this picture is fairly accurate," said BCI agent.

"A lot of cases people are armed, they have handguns, they have rifles," said BCI agent.

Still, officers have to go in, not fully knowing who it is they're going in for.

"The Biggest caution is I don't exactly know who's there," said BCI agent.

"Hasn't seen them with guns, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't bring ours." said BCI agent.

"We're going in blind. We don't know if he's on the run for a robbery a murder, or if he's just a guy up here selling drugs," said BCI agent

The best weapon agents have in these situations is knowledge. That's where informants come in. Low-level drug offenders are recruited often in exchange for leniency from the court. They make buys with up to $20,000 of cash in their pockets.

"I was meeting people, setting up deals and buying drugs," said BCI drug informant.

This man worked as an informant for BCI for two years.

The informant said: "Every deal carried a very scary feeling. It's a lot of money so being scared of being robbed or found being out that I'm an informant was really scary."

While the stakes are high for undercover informants, he saw staying in a life of dealing and addiction as the greater risk.

"For a long time, I knew that I was not as good a person as I wanted to be, and to better myself and be a better person. So, I saw a good opportunity to change, be better," said BCI drug informant.

Drug informant changing, and getting clean isn't an opportunity all users get.

"That's such a physical addiction, you need it every single day, so you will do what it takes to get that medicine," said Keri Lehman.

Lehman served time in prison for using and selling drugs. Now back in society, and clean, Lehman says she still sees drug use-- not because she's around it—because she knows how to spot it.

"It's everywhere you look. I see people everyday addicted to something and as a former addict you know what to look for," said Lehman.

Looking back, Lehman says getting caught may have saved her life.

"I honestly believe if you are using, you're going to end up in prison and if that doesn't save you, you will die, you will die from the addiction," said Lehman.

Preventing addiction is what narcotics task force operations are about.

Taking drugs off the streets before anyone else gets trapped in the cycle of drug abuse.

We appreciate the access granted to us by the drug task force and the bureau of criminal investigations, allowing us to do these stories, as well as the cooperation of everyone who participated.

The best way officers say you can help combat drug use and sales is by reporting suspicious activity.