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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • The County Line: In Polk County, it’s always something

  • If you’re thinking that we up here in the hinterlands don’t have much of a drug problem, think again. We do. And it’s much bigger than most might believe. The one positive spin to this fact is that the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force is making a difference.
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  •     If you’re thinking that we up here in the hinterlands don’t have much of a drug problem, think again. We do. And it’s much bigger than most might believe. The one positive spin to this fact is that the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force is making a difference.    
        The work of the four agents in this organization — who will go nameless for good reason — took a number of the local drug kingpins and their dealers off the street in 2013.   
        The annual report of the Task Force notes that 171 cases were developed against these people during the year. In addition to the charges and the drugs that were confiscated, the agents also seized 19 weapons.   
        Of the arrests that were made, 96 were directly related to drug trafficking, while another 18 came from the discovery of items during a search or because of outstanding warrants.   
        Drugs seized included: 3 grams of cocaine, 6 grams of crack, 12 grams of heroin, 3.9 pounds and 71 plants of marijuana, 237 grams of meth, 870 prescription pills and 2.5 pounds of synthetic marijuana.   
        A state grant pays for 50 percent of the salaries for three members of the team. The other half of the salary, along with the benefits and overtime, is provided by three local government entities — the cities of Crookston and East Grand Forks, and Polk County. The U.S. Border Patrol provides the fourth member of the Task Force.
    Advisory board   
        The Task Force reports to an advisory board made up of Crookston City Council member ­­­­­­­­­­­­Bob Quanrud, Crookston Police Chief Paul Biermaier; East Grand Forks City Council member Mark Olstad, East Grand Forks Police Chief Michael Hedlund, Polk County Sheriff Barb Erdman, and Polk County Commissioner Warren Affeldt. County Attorney Greg Widseth is an advisor as is the supervisor of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security office in Grand Forks.   
        The Task Force recently became based in the remodeled Polk County Law Enforcement Center in Crookston… where the Sheriff’s Office is housed. Working from the same office, members say, is a big benefit since it allows them to better organize their work and to share information more readily.   
        The amounts of drugs that were seized last year, the agents note, confirms that methamphetamine is the drug of choice. However, less of it is being developed locally because that which is “coming from the cartel” is cheaper, better, and less risky. “You don’t risk blowing up the house if you’re not making it,” the agents note.
    Page 2 of 2 - The “starter” drug   
        Also high — no pun intended — on the list is the use of prescription pills. The popularity of this way to get high has resulted in a number of home break-ins where the medicine chest was the prime focus.   
        Of crimes committed locally, they say, drugs and alcohol are a factor in 85 percent of them. The use of marijuana is the “starter” drug… the one that precedes the use of coke, heroin, meth, and others.   
        The work of the Task Force involved situations where young children were in the home. In one case, the drug house was right across the street from a school. Mom and dad were high and selling drugs while their school-age children were in the home… and not in school.
    Dent made in East Polk   
        In addition to arrests in Crookston and East Grand Forks during the year, a big dent was made in the drug trafficking that had been going on in East Polk County.   
        The Pine to Prairie team has one of the highest arrest rates in the state. It works extensively with drug task forces in adjacent counties and throughout Minnesota and in North Dakota, too.   
        And, it takes calls from the public. If people see activities that are of a suspicious nature, they should call the sheriff’s office. It’s much better to call in some information than have to say later that you wished that you had. The numbers are: Sheriff (218-281-04310), Crookston Police Department (218-281-3111), East Grand Forks Police Department (218-773-4307), or Polk County’s Help Us 2 Fight Meth and All Crime anonymous number (877-204-7505).   
        The agents will do presentations to clubs, churches and organizations. Use the numbers above if you want to make a request.   
        Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board of Commissioners

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