Organized Crime Strike Force Formed for ND's Bakken Region

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Much of the crime that has been happening in the state is being fueled by drug trafficking in the Bakken. The organized criminal activities are spreading beyond Williston and is affecting the rest of the state and Montana.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Meyers held a press conference to announce their plans to stop criminal activities.

Stenehjem and Meyers announced the formation of the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force. Fifty agents will be combating the rise of cartels, human trafficking, drug and weapon trafficking, white collar crimes and the rise of cartels.

Many people moved to North Dakota to cash in on the oil industry, including criminals.

Meyers said: "We're going to focus on the worst of the worst criminals in the Bakken. To do that effectively and efficiently we have to work together."

The crimes are crossing Indian reservation, state and country borders.

"It's not just a Montana problem. It's not just a North Dakota problem. It's truly a regional problem," said Montana U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter.

Fifty law enforcement agents will continue to work in their own departments, yet their top priority will be as members of the strike force. And, four prosecutors already stationed in Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot and Williston will work together to attack organized crimes.

"The level, the nature of these drug activities are much more serious than they have been before with increasing amounts being brought directly to North Dakota rather than through the middle man," said Stenehjem.

The strike force's mission is to identify, target, disrupt and dismantle all criminal organizations.

"Much of the crime in the Bakken is indeed fueled by illegal drug trafficking, especially methamphetamine and heroin. We've seen documented connections between some of the cases being worked here in larger drug organizations," said Burce Ohr, U.S. Department of Justice's Organized Crime Task Force.

Stenehjem says the strike force won't have any new employees, and there's no funding for it. But, he says doing nothing to address the big problem will be very costly in the long run.