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Southwest Narcotics Task Force addresses high rise in drugs

The Southwest Narcotics Task Force briefed the Stark County Commission Tuesday on updates of cases, involving a spike in fentanyl and heroin arrests.

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Southwest Narcotics Task Force Coordinator Chris Kimmerle addresses the Stark County Commission Tuesday morning at the Stark County Courthouse, explaining the rise in drug activity across southwest North Dakota. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Stark County and other counties within southwest North Dakota have seen a rise in narcotics and drug activity over the past year. Southwest Narcotics Task Force Coordinator Chris Kimmerle briefed the Stark County Commission this week on felony arrests along with increases in methamphetamine and fentanyl.

During its regularly scheduled meeting, the commission met Tuesday morning at the Stark County Courthouse, where Kimmerle presented reports on the Southwest Narcotics Task Force over the course of 2020.

Last year, the SNTF worked a total of 162 cases, covering Adams, Billings, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark counties along with the cities of Belfield, Dickinson and Medora. As far as arrests, the agency made 76 felony arrests in 2020, which is fewer than 2019’s arrests, but Kimmerle said that some cases are still pending.

“Even though we had the hardships of 2020, we still saw a very significant rise in drug activity in our community,” Kimmerle noted.

The SNTF saw “a substantial amount” of methamphetamine last year — a total of 4,714 grams — with fewer marijuana seizures in 2020 at 1,150 grams.

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“The biggest one and the one that we always harp on is fentanyl. It’s gone through the roof in our community,” Kimmerle said. “This past year we seized over 4,260 dosage units. Keep in mind, each dosage unit is enough to kill somebody. So that’s just what we got. What’s out there is just insane.”

In terms of heroin seizures, the SNTF captured 492 dosage units.

Seven cases the SNTF dealt with in 2020 have worked up to the “federal level of prosecution,” Kimmerle said, adding that this year’s cases look to keep the agency busy.

“One of the things I tried to do when I took over as coordinator is kind of gear our cases back to our local faces. We used to do a lot of stuff outside of the state, outside of our area and I don’t think that was benefiting us as much as it could,” Kimmerle said. “So I try to focus that back here, and a lot of our cases now are working back, starting here and working out of the area, which is the way I think they should be. One of the ways we do that is working closely with our partnering agencies. We share intel better than we ever had before with the (Stark County) Sheriff’s Office, the (Dickinson) Police Department and all of the agencies are just talking.”

The Southwest Narcotics Task Force conducted 14 community presentations such as school demonstrations, falling shorter than 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and health restrictions, Kimmerle added.

The Stark County Commission also approved a beer and liquor license for a wedding reception venue in Dickinson and discussed speed limit issues regarding 41st Street, adding that a portion of that roadway’s speed limit may be lowered after that subdivision begins developing.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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