Daines asks feds for specifics on 2014 drug enforcement strategy

2014-07-15T12:30:00Z 2014-07-15T23:52:16Z Daines asks feds for specifics on 2014 drug enforcement strategyBy TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Calling current federal drug-fighting resources in Montana insufficient, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is asking Attorney General Eric Holder for more details about a recently announced drug control strategy.

Daines, who met with Eastern Montana prosecutors and police in the spring, said local agencies not only need help with combating a burgeoning drug trade, but also for planning purposes need details of the federal government’s next move.

The congressman also is asking that more federal prosecutors commit to the effort.

In a letter to Holder on Tuesday, Daines leaned on the Justice Department to assign more people in the Bakken, something Eastern Montana prosecutors and police requested when meeting with Daines.

There are two FBI agents located in the oil-rich Bakken region, but most federal justice resources are tied to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Billings more than 200 miles away — and those resources have been reduced by federal budget cuts.

“In light of the significant reduction of personnel in the Billings office, I am concerned these resources are inadequate and to sufficiently aid in thwarting increased intensity in drug trafficking,” Daines wrote.

U.S. Justice officials last week singled out the Bakken as part of its 2014 national drug control strategy. The report stated that crime connected to the oil boom economy was overwhelming state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.

Drug crimes in North Dakota are up 20 percent overall, and federal criminal cases in western North Dakota have more than doubled since 2009.

In Montana, the Board of Crime Control reports that Bakken counties experienced a 228 percent increase in crime from 2008 to 2012.

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