Drug Task Force expands
By CHRIS ERICKSON
BHG News Service
Increases in drug use and drug-related crime in the state since the start of the latest oil boom has made local and state law enforcement officials take notice. At the local level, a task force recently expanded to help deal with problems that narcotics were creating around Lake Sakakawea’s adjacent counties.
The effort to cross deputize Mercer and McLean counties started about eight years back. At that time the two sheriff’s departments were under a state task force. According to Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen, the counties weren’t seeing drug interdiction at that time under the task force that reflected the needs of the time - no more than 30 cases per year.
"(McLean County Sheriff) Don Charging, myself, the Mercer County Commission, the McLean County Commission, Hazen and Beulah (police) – we all created the Mercer-McLean County Narcotics Task Force and Violent Crime Task Force," Danzeisen said. "As that progressed we put on three detectives in Mercer County, three detectives in McLean County and, once we started, investigated these crimes we started seeing up to 200 cases of narcotics or violent crimes per year."
That number increased over time as oil exploration and development hit the western portion of North Dakota, and in some cases, Mercer and McLean. According to South Central District Court records for those two counties, there have been rising instances of charges including possession of controlled substances (marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine), ingesting of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia, among others, in the region in the last five years.