FBI to open office in ND oil country

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The FBI said it will establish an office in North Dakota’s oil country to address an uptick in criminal activity related to the dramatically increased oil production of recent years.

The Williston, N.D., office will be a “resident agency” of the FBI’s Minneapolis division when it is fully staffed later this year, the bureau said Thursday

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Local officials and North Dakota’s congressional delegation have been asking for more than a year for the FBI to establish a presence in Williston to respond to the spike in crimes like drug and human trafficking that has accompanied the thousands of new workers related to the Bakken oil shale region.

“The office in Williston is a welcomed addition to our presence in North Dakota,” Richard Thornton, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division that oversees the Williston office, said in a statement.

“The opening of this office is in response to the unprecedented growth in population and economic activity associated with the oil exploration and production in the Bakken region and the corresponding increase in criminal activity,” he said. “The FBI will be in a better position to effectively address these issues in this region of North Dakota through this new office.”

Thanks in part to unconventional oil drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, North Dakota is now second only to Texas in oil production.

The same boom in shale drilling has made the United States the top oil producer in the world.

To North Dakota’s congressional delegation, the Thursday announcement is a major victory.

“Towns across the Bakken region have been hit hard by a spike in crime in the wake of our state’s massive population boom,” Sen. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampHouse Dems urge Senate panel to vote on Ex-Im Bank nominee Senate Dems frustrated over lack of action on Ex-Im Bank nominee Overnight Regulation: Schumer offering gun control bill MORE (D-N.D.) said in a statement. “We need more robust federal support to fight lawlessness right in the eye of the storm — in Williston — and that’s why I’ve been calling for this FBI office for more than a year.”

Heitkamp has brought federal officials like then-National Drug Control Policy Office Director R. Gil Kerlikowske to the region to show the urgency of the problem.

Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenSenate panel approves funding boost for TSA Overnight Energy: Senate Dems block energy, water bill a third time Bison declared national mammal MORE (R-N.D.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, took credit for helping get funding for the office and for meeting with top administration officials about it.

“After months of effort, today we’re announcing very good news for Williston and western North Dakota, as well eastern Montana,” Hoeven said. “Our new FBI office in Williston now has a site at the heart of the Bakken, which is vital not only for addressing crime, but also for maintaining our quality of life.”