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Sinner seeks FBI, DEA offices in Oil Patch

FARGO — George B. Sinner, a North Dakota Democrat running for Congress, is proposing the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration open permanent offices in the state’s Oil Patch to combat rising crime.

"Because both human trafficking and drug trafficking are, in many cases, multistate, even international problems, local law enforcement doesn’t have the background, doesn’t have the expertise and in many cases doesn’t have the connections across state lines and across international lines to really address and tackle these crimes," he said Monday. "That’s why you really have to have the federal people there."

He also proposed hiring more special prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and more training for local law enforcement.

Sinner, who is challenging Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer for the state’s only House seat, announced the proposals Monday in Minot. He’ll do the same in Fargo today.

The Forum interviewed him by phone.

Cramer generally agreed with Sinner’s position. "I think it’s undeniable that there are more resources needed to meet the growing crime demand in the Bakken," he said referring to the Oil Patch’s Bakken Formation.

He said the state’s congressional delegation is already pushing for a permanent FBI office. A DEA office would be nice, he said, but he understands the DEA tends to put its agents closer to the southern border where drug cartels are most active.

Several FBI agents are temporarily based in Sidney, Mont., a 45-mile drive from Williston in the heart of the Oil Patch. The DEA lists an office in Fargo and a post in Bismarck, but it has been criticized by local law enforcement officials in the Oil Patch for its lack of presence there.

Sinner said a permanent presence means not just an office but support staff to process information gathered by agents and the ability to bring in substitutes if an agent falls ill. Though he didn’t demand the FBI move its office from Sidney, like the state’s congressional delegation has, he said it would make sense for the agents to be in Williston, the "epicenter of the Bakken."

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., earlier urged the FBI to keep its office in Sidney.

Sinner said having more federal agents around will also help improve training for local law enforcement, he said.

That training is badly needed, he said. A friend going through police training told him that, during one training exercise, nearly everyone in the class picked out the wrong person as the victim of human trafficking, he said.