Written by John Plestina
Listening To Concerns -- Fort Peck Tribes Chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne listens as Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., fields a question during a listening session held in Poplar. (Photo by John Plestina)
Concerns that human trafficking could become a larger issue in eastern Montana and an increasing drug problem, especially the proliferation of methamphetamine, were major concerns expressed to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter during a listening session in Greet the Dawn Auditorium on the Fort Peck Community College campus in Poplar, Thursday, Aug. 28.
The westward creep of Bakken Oilfield development into Montana was blamed for the spike in crime.
“Montana and North Dakota have been hit especially hard,” Tester said of crime problems. “Bad actors are attracted to the profits [of Bakken trafficking].”
“We are already seeing negative impacts of oil and gas development with no benefits to us,” A.T. “Rusty” Stafne, chairman of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, said.
Two people asked Tester and Cotter if the oil boom is worth the drug and other crime problems and the heavy trucks on the roads.
“It’s hard to imagine, but it is here in our region,” Cotter said.
He said victims of human trafficking are trafficked for prostitution or labor.
“Since the Bakken oil boom has happened here in the last 10 years, we have seen an increase in our area with illegal drugs and human trafficking that goes along with that,” Capt. Jim Summers of the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice said.
He added that his department was focused mainly on drug crimes and that the proportions of the methamphetamine problem have increased significantly in recent years.
Summers said additional funding is needed for more and better paid investigators and officers.
Cotter said some of the drug trafficking is directly linked to cartels.
Cotter also said there has been an influx of oilfield workers into eastern Montana, many of which are young males, and many averaging $100,000 in annual earrings with substantial disposable incomes making them attractive to those trafficking in prostitution and drugs.
A woman said she was from the Bakken-impacted Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota and that Methamphetamine impacted 30 new born infants at Fort Bert-hold.
“So far in Montana, we have only seen sex trafficking,” Cotter said, but added that labor trafficking could come to the Bakken.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, as well as any commercial sex act performed by a person under 18 years of age.
Labor trafficking often targets illegal immigrants and includes forced labor debt bondage for transportation from another country to the United States, and is covered under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. It amounts to slavery.
Cotter said human trafficking purveyors often target vulnerable female victims raised in low-income, single-parent households. He said victims rarely come forward and when information is provided to law enforcement, the sources usually are other people with knowledge of the trafficking.
Sixty-one federally-funded task forces addressing human trafficking operate in all 50 states. They include the Montana Human Trafficking Task Force, established by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana in 2012.
Montana Assistant Attorney General Melissa Schlichting said the AG’s Office gives human trafficking a high priority.
Since 2010, 25 people have been charged for human trafficking crimes in South Dakota. Half of the victims were young Native American girls.
Cotter said several human trafficking cases have been successfully prosecuted in Montana and nearby states. They include William Richard Nielsen, of Missoula, who is serving a 40-year sentence in a federal prison. Cotter said Nielsen used the internet to lure a 12-year-old girl from Wyoming to Missoula in 2009, drugged and raped her. Cotter also talked about Iraqi refugee Mohammed Alaboudi, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota said had drugged young girls and forced them into prostitution. A federal judge sentenced Alaboudi to four life terms earlier this year.
“North Dakota and South Dakota have successfully prosecuted cases that involved Native Americans as procurers and victims,” Cotter said. Some of those cases involved crimes committed in Williston.
Also cited was jurisdictional issues because of the presence of the reservation and that city, county, state and tribal law enforcement have agreements in place that allow them to work together.
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office Jail Administrator Melvin Clark represented Sheriff Freedom Crawford, who did not attend the meeting.
Clark said man camps are a law enforcement issue.
“When we try and track them down, they’ve got a new place already,” he said.
The RCSO is under staffed.
“We’re down on the east end of the county. We can’t give as many officers to the reservation,” Clark said.
He added the deputies cannot afford rental housing in the Culbertson and Bainville areas.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has several agents based in Glasgow that work with all law enforcement agencies in the region.
Project Safe Bakken, comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and others in Montana and North Dakota, is working to reduce human and drug trafficking and other crime in the area. Law enforcement in Montana and North Dakota and federal authorities share information.
Cotter asked the public to report known or suspected human trafficking.
“The public always has a place to go with evidence of human trafficking,” Cotter said.
To report a human or drug trafficking case, contact the FBI in Glasgow at 228-2533. Other law enforcement agency telephone numbers are: Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, 768-5332; Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, 653-6216; Wolf Point Police, 653-1093.
Written by Herald-News
The 22nd Annual Poplar Indian Days was held Labor Day weekend under the arbor in American Legion Park. A tradition in Poplar since 1993, the annual celebration was formerly the Iron Ring Celebration, held annually in Poplar in July until 1992. (Photos by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
Bridge Park caretaker Dave Fyfe points to a mattress and two box springs that were illegally dumped beside a picnic area between Aug. 24 and Aug. 27. (Photo by John Plestina)
People using Lewis and Clark Park, commonly known as Bridge Park, as a garbage dump has raised the hackles of the park’s caretaker and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which manages the site.
FWP has managed the site that includes the Lewis and Clark Fishing Access Site near the Montana Hwy. 13 bridge that separates Roosevelt and McCone counties since 1999. It is about seven miles east of Wolf Point.
The scenic park along the Missouri River, that should be pristine at all times, has been used by some people to dump trash, much of which is thrown on the ground.
A mattress and two box springs were illegally dumped beside a picnic area between Sunday, Aug. 24 and Wednesday, Aug. 27.
“I wish I could catch the guys who are doing this,” Dave Fyfe, the park’s caretaker, said.
“Somebody has to know. Somebody has to have seen them doing it,” he said.
“It isn’t hunters or fishermen who are doing this. They take care of it,” Fyfe said.
“At one time, the Wolf Point Lions Club took care of the whole thing,” he said.
Fyfe is the current Lions president.
Woody Baxter, FWP Region 6 fishing access site manager, is in charge of the park, including the fishing access site.
“Of 220 fishing access sites, this is the most abused one in the state,” he said.
“We have scheduled maintenance, but walls on the restroom building get covered with graffiti on average of twice a year,” Baxter said.
“The caretakers on the average last about two years and they get fed up with it. They just get fed up with it,” he said.
Baxter reiterated what Fyfe said about fishermen not abusing the site.
“You’ve got such a treasure there. It just gets abused by a few,” he said.
“We also have a problem with locals throwing their trash in our dumpsters,” Baxter said of some McCone County residents crossing the bridge and throwing their garbage in dumpsters at the park.
Dumping trash and other violations may be reported to FWP by calling (800) TIP-MONT (800) 847-6668.
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture board of directors voted unanimously, Tuesday, Sept. 2, to sign a buy-sell agreement with a Twin Cities developer, paving the way for a national retailer to build in Wolf Point.
Oppidan Investment Company, a Minnetonka, Minn., commercial developer, told the chamber board, Tuesday, Aug. 5, that an unnamed national retailer is interested in locating on the 25-acre site on U.S. Hwy. 2, east of the Homestead Inn that the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture has owned since the 1970s. Oppidan would then build a 26,000-square-foot building for what Johnson called a general merchandise retailer and lease the building to that company.
One month ago, Oppidan asked the Chamber to sell the land for $1 per acre. The agreement the chamber board signed calls for Oppidan to pay the chamber $35,000 per acre for up to 10 acres.
The proposed 26,000- square-foot building would be slightly larger than the 25,000- square-foot ALCO store in Wolf Point.
Oppidan handles property actuations and develops construction sites for several national retailers, grocery chains and restaurants.
It is unknown if more than one business might locate on the site.
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point City Council authorized the city’s purchase of the charred former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance on the 100 block of Anaconda Street for $1 during a special meeting, Thursday, Aug. 21.
The purchase is contingent on Gysler Furniture and Appliance owner John Gysler paying a 20 percent match of the cost of the cleanup, which is $55,493, and providing proof of continued insurance coverage on the property.
The council also advertised for a request for qualifications for engineering firms under the guidance of Great Northern Development Corporation, authorized a special committee under the city council to select a firm based on the RFQ and authorized acceptance of terms and conditions for a federal Brownfields program loan to the city with loan forgiveness.
The site qualifies as a designated Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The designation makes the city eligible for funding through a revolving loan fund and/or federal grant funding for remediation and clean-up of the site.
While the Gysler buildings dated to the early 1900s, remodeling of both structures during the 1960s included roofing and flooring materials made of asbestos, which the fire this year rendered as “friable asbestos,” which is any building material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that could be pulverized or powdered by hand pressure, including asbestos that is damaged by fire, and is subject to federal regulation.
“Due to the asbestos, we are not allowing anyone to go in and we are not allowing anything else hazardous into the property,” Mayor Chris Dschaak said.
He said he wants to see the site cleaned up this year, which had been the intention of city officials since they first began working with GNDC and environmental consultant Newfields of Missoula to remediate the site in June.
GNDC had approved the loan just hours before the council met and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition approved the loan Tuesday, Aug. 26.
The council is expected to award bids by the end of September.
There is a clause for a minimum resale price for the property of $25,000 for the two adjacent lots. If a buyer cannot be found that would pay that price, the city is permitted to give the property to GNDC, which would then attempt to sell it.
The council approved a call for bids for the cleanup during the monthly meeting, Monday, Aug. 18.
A fast-moving fire on March 10 destroyed the Gysler buildings.