WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — The FBI is opening a permanent office in western North Dakota’s oil patch to help the area deal with rising crime that has followed the state’s oil boom. A few things to know about the office and why it’s being established:
WHY DOES WESTERN NORTH DAKOTA NEED AN FBI OFFICE?
The North Dakota oil patch was once a sleepy and remote corner of America. But the oil boom in recent years — brought on by advances in oil extraction technologies — has brought tens of thousands of new arrivals to the area and given western North Dakota the nation’s fastest-growing communities. With the growth has come more crime — and more sophisticated kinds of crime.
Police have found themselves dealing with human and drug trafficking, organized crime and homicides.
The FBI currently has satellite offices in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Minot. But in expansive North Dakota, those are all long drives. Agents cycle into the oil patch, but local law enforcement officials have said that’s not enough and have pushed their representatives to secure more federal help.
The FBI doesn’t open new satellite offices often: The last was in New London, Connecticut, in 2006, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen said.
WHEN IS IT OPENING? HOW WILL IT BE STAFFED?
Staff for Sen. John Hoeven, who along with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp pushed for the office, said there is no firm timeline for the office to open. The FBI is looking for places to lease at the moment.
Hoeven said he anticipates that the office will have four FBI agents, an analyst and clerical staff.
WHAT ARE OFFICIALS SAYING?
“We aren’t expecting them to come and save us from anything,” said Williams County Sherriff Scott Busching. “We don’t need saving; we need help.”
And that help needs to be longer-term than the agents who have rotated in up until now, he said.
“You send somebody over here for two weeks and we just learn their name and then they’re gone,” said Busching. “We got to the point where we saw no point in filling in some of these new guys because we knew they were going to be gone.”
Williams County Commissioner Dan Kalil welcomed the FBI office but said he wishes for the area to return to the way it was before the boom.
“We look forward to the day when we no longer need them, when the problems are gone and we can go back to the community that we were,” he said.
Williston Mayor Howard Klug called the area’s local law enforcement agencies “the best” but said “they do need help.”