Cops arrest 20 in Watford City on multiple charges
By Neal A. Shipman
Twenty individuals were arrested in Watford City last week as part of a two-day operation involving agents from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, together with federal and local law enforcement agencies.
The operation was the result of a long-term undercover investigation by state, local and federal agencies, targeting organized drug rings and other illegal activity in northwest North Dakota.
According to Jesse Wellen, Watford City chief of police, the operation that involved officers from 10 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies began on Wednesday, March 12 and concluded the evening of Thursday, March 13.
Approximately 50 traffic stops were made during the two-day operation. Agents seized quantities of drugs, drug paraphernalia, firearms and cash. Additionally, 14 illegal aliens were detained and turned over to the Border Patrol. Criminal charges against several of the arrested individuals are pending.
“This operation was the result of a long-term investigation by law enforcement agencies in an effort to combat increased criminal and drug activity in the area,” stated Wellen. “It was time to put the boots to what’s going on.”
The operation involved the Watford City and Williston Police departments, McKenzie County and Williams County sheriffs’ offices, BCI and the Northwest Narcotics Task Force, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This operation was conducted in addition to the search warrant served in the New Town area headed up by Federal authorities as announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon.
“Criminals need to know that law enforcement is dedicated to ridding the area of illegal activity and that these operations will continue on an ongoing basis,” stated North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. “Citizens should be assured that our efforts will continue, focusing in particular on the illegal drug trade, human trafficking and the sex trade.”
The 2013 session of the North Dakota Legislature, according to Stenehjem, devoted additional resources to the Attorney General’s Office, as well as $16.6 million in grants to local law enforcement that has helped facilitate these kinds of operations.