Coon Rapids to remain member of Anoka-Hennepin crime task force

A new three-year agreement for the Coon Rapids Police Department to remain part of the Anoka-Hennepin Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force has been approved by the Coon Rapids City Council.

Coon Rapids has been a member of the task force since its inception in 1996 and before that, the police department was part of another drug task force in the area.

Besides Coon Rapids, the current task force members are the police departments of Anoka,  Blaine, Champlin, Columbia Heights, Fridley and Maple Grove as well as the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

The task force comprises 11 full-time police officers with three coming from the sheriff’s office, two from Coon Rapids and one each from Anoka, Blaine, Champlin, Columbia Heights, Fridley and Maple Grove.

The sheriff’s office also provides a lieutenant who supervises the task force and one of the officers from the participating cities is a sergeant, right now from Fridley, according to Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise.

The bulk of the funding for the task force, 75 percent, comes from a federal grant administered by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The 2013 grant was $240,000.

The rest of the task force budget, 25 percent, is funded by the participating cities and the county through a formula based on population served.

The Coon Rapids match proposed in the 2014 budget is $10,250. “It’s money well spent, no question,” Wise said.

The police department pays the regular salary and benefits of the two Coon Rapids officers assigned to the task force, but the task force budget picks up overtime costs, Wise said.

“This model has been in place for a number of years,” he said.

“Investigating drug cases is a high priority for the city and the county,”

“The city benefits greatly from the contributions of the officers it places in the task force.”

Officers are assigned to the task force for three-year periods before they return to their normal patrol duties with the police department, according to Wise.

The officers receive specialized training in drug case investigations which is of immense value to the police department when they return from the task force, Wise said.

Working undercover while on assignment with the task force, the officers have “to look like the people they are trying to apprehend and play the part,” he said.

The task force officers come from different law enforcement agencies and learn to work collaboratively, not only with each other but with other law enforcement agencies in both Anoka and Hennepin counties and beyond, Wise said.

“That’s another benefit,” he said.

While many of the task force drug investigations are information- and intelligence-based, the police department refers cases to the task force, too, based on arrests officers have made while on patrol, Wise said.

The new task force joint powers agreement replaces the 2010 agreement and has some updates, according to Wise.

The updates deal with language clarifying which agency may contribute a supervisor and adds language on the responsibilities of the advisory board, which comprises the police chiefs and sheriff of the participating agencies, regarding evidence retention and the payment of financial obligations to the task force, according to Wise.

According to the joint powers agreement, communities in Anoka and Hennepin counties are linked by the 610, 694 and 169 bridges over the Mississippi River and share common boundaries “with easy access which has provided a conduit for drug traffickers and criminal elements to utilize.”

As spelled out in the joint powers agreement, the primary responsibility of the task force is to detect, investigate, gather evidence and apprehend drug traffickers, as well as assist in violent crimes and gang related investigation within the geographic boundaries of the communities that comprise the task force.

Most common drug arrests by task force

Methamphetamine and heroin offenders are the most common drug arrests by the Anoka-Hennepin Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force.

According to Lt. Bryon Fuest, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division and task force commander, marijuana arrests come in third because of the amount that is needed for it to be reported as a felony (1.5 ounces), Fuerst said.

“It seems that heroin is charged out more than meth and is on the rise in arrests,” he said.

Statistics provided by Fuerst show that the task force made 621 drug-related arrests in 2012: 509 in Anoka County, 92 in Hennepin County and 20 in surrounding counties.

Cash seizures for the year totaled $112,315. These are raw numbers and do not reflect what is retained by the task force, Fuerst said.

Fifteen handguns and 11 long guns were also seized by the task force in 2012, but no vehicles.

According to Fuerst, during the first eight months of this year (January through August), there have been 453 drug-related arrests by the task force, 383 in Anoka County, 58 in Hennepin County and 12 in surrounding counties.

Cash seizures amount to $373,600, while 18 handguns, 12 long guns, a ballistic vest and seven vehicles have also been seized, Fuerst said.

No meth labs were reported in 2012, nor in the first eight months of 2013, he said.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]