Williston to gain law enforcement

WILLISTON Williston, at the very heart of the Bakken Formation and the economic and population boom of the state, will soon be a station for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

“Our federal law enforcement resources in North Dakota are already stretched thin,” wrote Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp in a letter to James B. Comey, the director of the FBI. “As you are well aware, any population increase of this magnitude will unfortunately also draw a criminal element.”

Agents had previously been dispatched to the area to help out with the oil patch but could not secure a permanent office in Williston. Instead, the agents established themselves about an hour’s drive away in temporary offices in Sydney, Mont.

Now, the senators say, permanent space has been acquired in Williston and they are urging Comey to have the agents make the move as soon as possible.

In just two years the city grew by nearly 2,000 residents. In 2010 the city had a recorded population of 14,716 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau. The agency estimated 18,532 residents live there now.

And those are just residents. The city has been the topic of many a discussion on transients and temporary workers, moving in and out without laying down foundation.

Possibly because of the lack of stability there, crime has also gone up, stretching even thinner an overworked police and sheriff’s departments.

Western North Dakota agencies, including Williston and Williams County, were given $16.6 million in emergency grant funding from the state in September.

Of that money, $9.6 million went to general law enforcement needs in the area, with the other $7 million going only to sheriff’s departments in the oil patch.

The FBI agents stationed in Williston will be strategically placed, Hoeven and Heitkamp claim, to be of the most use to the oil region in general.

“Our state, tribal, county and local law enforcement agencies have performed admirably and continue to work hard under the circumstances. The state, tribal, county and local governments also continue to provide increased funding to law enforcement agencies in western North Dakota to hire and place more officers on the street and purchase additional resources to address the needs in their communities,” the senators wrote in their letter. “While additional funding is closing the gap, federal law enforcement resources are necessary to truly address the sharp increases in crime that is occurring in western North Dakota.”

The state already has agents stationed in it, but they are far removed from the greatest population increases in the state and are often busy dealing with tribal investigations, which always fall under federal jursidiction.

“(T)he FBI agents that the Bureau has currently detailed to North Dakota are based in Fargo,” the senators wrote. “Their distance from the oil patch, coupled with their existing duties and frequent need on the Indian reservations in our state, all point to the necessity for dedicated agents based in the western part of our state.”