BISMARCK, N.D. - The "War on Drugs" across North Dakota is escalating, as law enforcement agencies are now dealing with traffickers who are armed with an array of modified weapons.63.
When battling to take down dozens of drug dealers across our area, the revolving door of weapons trade comes into play.
The number of firearm seizures across the state have gone up dramatically in recent years.
Drug dealers from metropolitan areas like Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis are traveling to North Dakota because there’s high drug demand and not many providers, meaning they can sell their products here for a lot more.
The Metro Area Narcotics Task Force has given us access to their facility to talk about how the drugs are connected to the hundreds of guns being seized.
The agents' identities have been masked for their safety.
Theoddeus Gray is a Detroit drug dealer, who raps about his connections to North Dakota.
Agent: “Bragging about his sales and where he’s at. And where he’s at and how dangerous of a person he is.”
Gray was arrested by state agents for possession of a controlled substance and intent to distribute last year.
Agent: “He bonded out.”
A few days later Gray was fatally shot in Detroit after a standoff with police.
Let’s go back (tape deck) during the rap video when Gray mentions his honey spot.
Metro Area Drug Task Force agents define the term as an area where you can make a lot more money.
Agent: “He can get a lot more profit for what he’s selling and he’s a little less known by law enforcement in this area.”
Agents say the honey spot is right here in our backyard,”
Agent: “Bismarck and Western North Dakota along with the Fort Berthold Reservation.”
Reports say Gray had a five-seven handgun during the Detroit incident
Agent: “This cartridge will penetrate all soft body armor out there.”
Similar models and retrofitted firearms, sit inside the evidence lockers of the drug task force.
Agent: “They’ll trade the guns for the drugs.”
Guns stolen within our community from your cars and homes.
Agent: “They’re just finding a new way to do it. If I can go out and steal a gun and I can get $500, or $600 worth of drugs. Or $1,000 worth of drugs, [then] I didn’t have to come up with that money.”
Many have caught on to that. By the numbers MANTF statistics show their gun seizures have increased: 47 in 2014…26 in 2015… 40 in 2016… 94 in 2017… and 62 in 2018.
So, we broke it down even further. In November we got statistics from Bismarck Police, Mandan Police, Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department and Morton County Sheriff’s Office.
Bismarck has seized the most since 2014 at 200 firearms. Mandan PD seized 52 in the same time frame. Burleigh, 30 and Morton 28.
And, with an increase of guns on the streets, the drug task force is now using, a lot more of this tape.
Agent: “You know they’re trying to set them up like our police rifles. You know they’ve got scopes, they’ve got red dot sites, lights, stuff like that so they can go out into the dark and actually see what they’re doing.”
Weapons the agent says drug dealers and crime offenders are gravitating toward.
And crimes, are mainly linked back to drugs.
Agent: “It comes across the border and it hits these hub cities and it kind of starts to disperse. When you come all the way up here, we’re the end of that line. We pay the most.”
With more demand and less providers.
Agent: “Different street gangs, will have different territories in North Dakota that they control.”
Big drug dealers from out of state are paying a visit to our neighborhoods
Agent: “They come out here to exploit those people. To say OK, you’ve got to continue to do theft and all this stuff so I can keep feeding you these pills and I can take the money back.”
Guns are just a part of the game but a deadly one the drug task force is dealing with much more frequently.
MANTF agents say it’s important to keep a track of your serial numbers and the make and model of your weapons. They also advise gun owners to keep weapons locked safes.
As for Gray, the man who was killed during a standoff, his case in North Dakota now goes into the abyss because there’s no longer a suspect.
Federal documents show Gray's family in Michigan is suing Detroit law enforcement in a wrongful death lawsuit.