Commander Gary Pederson described for Beltrami County Board members Tuesday the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force activities for the past year.
Pederson was accompanied during Tuesday's County Board work session by Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp, Deputy Rob Billings and Administrative Assistant Shannon Trepanier. Pederson said he is satisfied with the results the Beltrami County Attorney's office has achieved with prison sentences ranging from 33-133 months for criminals convicted of selling methamphetamine and other illegal drugs in and around Bemidji.
Besides the work in narcotics enforcement, Pederson cited other situations in which Task Force members have assisted law enforcement. He said they worked with the Gang Strike Force with wire tapping, helped Mahnomen law enforcement during the siege and shooting of Mahnomen County Deputy Chris Dewey, sandbagged during spring flooding, searched in June for a missing Blackduck child, who was later found safe, and assisted during the search for victims of the July Blackduck Lake boating accident.
The Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the counties of Beltrami, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen and Roseau, the city of Bemidji and the Leech Lake and White Earth Bands of Ojibwe. It also works with the federal Safe Trails Task Force.
Pederson listed the following statistics for the past year:
- 56 arrests for felonies and misdemeanors.
- 36 search warrants executed for controlled substance cases.
- 60 undercover drug buys.
- 17 presentations by Task Force officers to civic organizations.
- 56 assists to other law enforcement agencies outside the area.
- Six federal indictments for drug offenses.
- 115 grams of crack cocaine seized.
- 19 ounces of powder cocaine seized.
- 104 ounces of methamphetamine seized.
- 871 ounces of marijuana seized.
- 338 marijuana plants seized.
- Seven firearms seized.
Pederson also addressed the greater scrutiny he expects the Task Force to face following the investigation of the Metro Gang Strike Force for failing to follow guidelines. He said he expects forfeit and seizure rules will become more stringent and the 20 state task forces to experience more oversight. He said the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force has zero accounting or forfeiture discrepancies.
"It isn't that I necessarily want more oversight for our Task Force, but I'm not afraid of it," Pederson said.