North Dakota Senator Asks DEA to Send More Agents

In a letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, Sen. John Hoeven cites data from the North Dakota Attorney General's Office showing drug crimes are up 19.5 percent from last year. At the same time, OSHA has launched an enforcement emphasis program focused on the state's oil and gas and construction industries.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sent a letter July 15 asking the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief to send more agents to help investigate drug cases in western North Dakota. The same day, OSHA announced it has launched an enforcement emphasis program in the state, with additional investigators brought in temporarily, that is focused on the oil and gas and construction industries. Since January 2012, 34 North Dakota workers in those industries--21 in oil and gas and the other 13 in construction--have died on the job, according to OSHA.

Hoeven's letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart cites new data from the North Dakota Attorney General's Office showing drug crimes are up 19.5 percent from last year. "We have been in contact with the North Dakota Attorney General, as well as local law enforcement officials, to determine how to best help them to keep our communities safe. They indicated that we need more DEA agents," he said in a news release posted on his Senate website. "That's why we're requesting that DEA station additional agents in North Dakota to help us investigate drug crimes and prevent drugs from coming into the state."

"According to crime statistics released today by the North Dakota Attorney General's Office, drug crimes are up 19.5 percent over last year's levels," his letter states. "Many of the drug cases involve significant quantities compared to prior years and include new and dangerous types of drugs. DEA has the expertise to help our local sheriffs and state agencies investigate drug crimes but unfortunately local officials believe they are not receiving adequate assistance from your organization. It is critical that DEA dedicate sufficient staff, both fulltime and on a needed basis, to help investigate drug cases. This includes dedicating DEA agents on local narcotic taskforces in western North Dakota. I urge you to work with local and state officials to get DEA agents into the field as soon as possible."

Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck, N.D., noted OSHA has had a local emphasis program for the oil and gas industry for the past three years and has participated in outreach events with oil and gas employers, including a multistate stand down with the Montana-North Dakota chapter of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network in which more than 160 employers and 1,000 workers stopped work for a day to discuss hazard mitigation.

"These industries are inherently dangerous, and workers are exposed to multiple hazards every day. Their safety must not be compromised because demand for production keeps increasing," Brooks said. "Workers are coming to these growing industries to find jobs, not catastrophic injury and preventable death. These employers have a legal responsibility to protect every employee that works for them."

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