Bakken Blues: Oil Patch Drug Problems Grab Officials' Attention - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Bakken Blues: Oil Patch Drug Problems Grab Officials' Attention

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Earlier this month, federal authorities charged 22 people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation with conspiracy to sell heroin and other drugs.  The first indictment, dubbed "Operation Winter's End," was in March, but wasn't made public until recently due to the ongoing investigation.  Officials met today to discuss strategies going forward.

According to law enforcement, organized crime and other illegal activity is increasing with the influx of people looking for work in the energy industry.  However, the national approach is downplaying the problem in terms of a criminal justice issue, and reframing it as a more of a public health issue. 

"We're not going to arrest our way out of our drug problem, but when we all work together with treatment and prevention and education and law enforcement, we can make a difference," says Gil Kerlikowske, Director, National Drug Control Policy.

Regardless of how the issue is framed, educators, treatment programs, law enforcement and social workers all emphasized the need for resources in fighting it.  An argument is made the federal government should assist.

"Fiscal year 2011, the federal government took over 300 million dollars out of North Dakota just in oil revenues.  So a lot, a lot of, the federal government is making money in the Bakken too," says U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Officials emphasize the problem is not likely to go away soon.  According to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Williston is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country.


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