By Peter Bodley
The Anoka-Hennepin Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force continues to grow.
The Anoka County Board Sept. 26 approved a joint and cooperative agreement to add the city of Rogers to the task force, which is administered by the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, effective Sept. 1.
Rogers joins the Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Anoka, Blaine, Champlin, Columbia Heights, Coon Rapids, Fridley, Maple Grove and Ramsey as task force members.
In fact, Rogers is the second newcomer to the task force this year, Ramsey having coming on board in February.
Lt. Wayne Heath of the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division is commander of the task force. He can’t recall when two cities have joined the task force in one year, Heath said.
“This will give us more resources,” he said.
According to Heath, Rogers has been experiencing issues with narcotics use and to be pro-active, the police chief has shifted some resources to free up an officer for the task force.
The task force comprises two team leaders, a sheriff’s office CID investigator plus a sergeant from the Blaine Police Department, Heath said.
The sheriff’s office has assigned two other investigators to the task force, so has the Coon Rapids Police Department and Blaine has an additional officer besides the sergeant, while the other agencies have each assigned one officer, he said.
The Coon Rapids police Department has assigned two officers to the task force, while Blaine has a second officer, while the other member departments have one each, he said.
Funding for the task force comes from a Minnesota Department of Public Safety grant. “We received $235,000 for 2017,” Heath said. “We don’t know the 2018 amount yet.”
The state dollars pay the overtime costs of the task force investigator, while the regular salary and benefits are covered by each investigator’s home agency, according to Heath.
While the task force focuses on drug cases in its member cities and Anoka County, investigations sometimes take it into other cities and counties and involve multiple agencies, Heath said.
“The number of cases remains constant, but we are dealing with more and more methamphetamine crimes,” he said.
There is a lot of talk about heroin and it is a “horrible problem,” but methamphetamine is the No. 1 drug seen by the task force at this time, according to Heath.
The price of the drug has gone down and a lot of the methamphetamine found in the Twin Cities is coming from the cartels in Mexico, Heath said.
The drug task force, which was formed in 1986, is headquartered at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.