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Dave Roepke, Published April 27 2010

Troopers see rise in drugs seized

North Dakota troopers say there’s been a sharp increase in the amount of drug trafficking detected in traffic stops on the state’s highways and interstates.

Since last August, more 216 pounds of marijuana, seven pounds of methamphetamine and more than $50,000 in cash has been seized by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Lt. Jody Skogen said.

Skogen compared that to the same figures for the 12 months before August 2009, a period in which troopers seized 20 pounds of pot, a half-pound of meth and more than $5,000 in cash.

The weight of marijuana found since last summer is also much larger than in recent years. Skogen said in 2006, the state patrol seized about two pounds of pot.

That figure was about 44 pounds in 2007 and 16 pounds in 2008, he said.

Over the last 19 months, troopers have made arrests that resulted in 49 charges of possessing drugs with the intent to deliver – half of which have come in the last six months, he said.

In prior years, the vast majority of drugs troopers seized were small amounts for personal use, “the baggies in the pocket and all that,” Skogen said.

The statewide trend has been just as evident locally, said Lt. Bryan Niewind of the patrol’s Fargo-based southeast region.

The increase doesn’t necessarily mean trafficking is on the rise. Skogen and Niewind said it’s likely due to better training.

Skogen said troopers are improving at picking up on clues that can be tip offs to drug running – air fresheners in the vehicle or trip plans that don’t add up, for instance.

Niewind said that police agencies are sharing more information, and troopers are looking more closely for subtle indicators such as body language.

“Our officers are getting better. They’re going a little bit further,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535