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Heitkamp, Wrigley say protecting safety a priority amid economic growth

GRAND FORKS — The biggest challenge facing North Dakota, which boasts the nation’s best economy and fastest-growing population, is maintaining the state’s quality of life, two of the state’s former top legal officials — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley — told law enforcement officers attending the North Dakota Peace Officers Association conference Thursday in Grand Forks.

“The biggest single issue in managing the growth is public safety,” said Heitkamp, D-N.D. “It’s the security of being able to walk out of their homes and feel safe. It’s what people feel like they’re losing.

“What we can do is make sure that never gets lost in North Dakota.”

Heitkamp, who was North Dakota’s attorney general from 1992 to 2000, serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Earlier this week she and other members of the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, both Republicans, announced nearly $525,000 in federal grants to fight crime, especially drug crime, in the state.

The majority of the money, $481,818, will go to the state attorney general’s office for narcotics enforcement through multi-jurisdictional task forces to fight drug trafficking, and for support services for victims of violent crime.

“The No. 1 economy in the nation is a great thing. It’s a blessing,” Wrigley said. “It means opportunity of every variety for the young people growing up in this state. It’s important. But it’s pretty meaningless if we give up the most important thing about life in North Dakota, which is our quality of life.”

Wrigley, a Republican, served as U.S. attorney for North Dakota from 2001 to 2009, prior to being appointed lieutenant governor in 2010.

Heitkamp also encouraged the state’s law enforcement agencies to coordinate efforts to combat the growing issue of prostitution and human trafficking in the state.

“It’s a tough, tough, tough boundary. It’s pretty blurred,” she said. “There are tragic stories of people dealing with victims every day. In every one of those situations, at least consider that she could be a victim. And certainly, she is a victim if she is under age.”

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

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