ST. PAUL — Minnesota police task forces seized more illegal drugs last year than they did in 2018, according to a new report from the state Department of Public Safety.
Known as Violent Crime Enforcement Teams, the task forces took hold of approximately 1,700 pounds of meth in 2019, an increase of 48% from the previous year. Authorities said that made it the 12th consecutive year that meth seizure totals increased.
The task forces, which are funded at the state and federal levels, are made up of approximately 200 investigators from more than 120 Minnesota public safety agencies. They exist mostly to investigate drug-and-gang-related violent crimes.
Except for marijuana, the amount of other drugs seized by the task forces also increased last year. After several years of declining cocaine confiscations, the task forces seized 106 pounds of the drug in 2019.
Heroin confiscations more than doubled last year for a total of 55 pounds, according to the report. The amount of cannabis concentrates, such as hashish and marijuana wax, also jumped from roughly 160 pounds in 2018 to 259 pounds.
The number of ill-gotten prescription pills seized by the task forces has fluctuated in recent years, and came out to a total of 30,475 in 2019. Approximately 16,500 pills were taken by police in 2018. DPS statewide gang and drug coordinator Brian Marquart said many of the pills recovered were fake.
Unlike marijuana, 1,300 pounds of which was taken by the task force last year, officials said the majority of drugs made their way to Minnesota from outside the U.S.
"Most of these drugs originate from south of the border," said Marquart.
By contrast, DPS officials said, the majority of pot recovered in Minnesota originated from states where marijuana is legal to consume.
Marquart said police can identify the source of the drugs using a combination of federal intelligence and interviews with criminal suspects. Task force investigations can be sparked by civilian complaints, he said, and grow to involve the use of confidential informants and undercover officers.
For the most part, officials said the task forces go after "high-level" drug dealers and suppliers. Marquart said the declining number of arrests made by the task forces show that they are staying true to that goal.