Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force updates leaders on activities

WORTHINGTON -- Last week, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (BRDTF) executed a search warrant at a rural home, arresting one man, picking up another on a warrant and netting more than 31 grams of methamphetamine.

WORTHINGTON -- Last week, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (BRDTF) executed a search warrant at a rural home, arresting one man, picking up another on a warrant and netting more than 31 grams of methamphetamine.

Jose Isabel Rodriguez, 42, of Worthington was charged with first- and second-degree controlled substance possession, a meth-related crime involving children and possession of drug paraphernalia. Erasmo Guadalupe Rodriguez was picked up on a warrant for first-degree controlled substance crimes.

Since 2005, the task force has worked 1,250 investigations, made 335 arrests and taken more than $2 million in illegal substances off the streets. They have arrested 49 gang members and entered 153 into the state system. More than 280 names already in the system have been updated with current information.

BRDTF Commander Troy Appel presented this information and more on Monday in Worthington during a joint meeting between city, county and school district leaders.

The goal of the task force, as explained in its mission statement, is to effectively investigate and prosecute all of those who are involved in illegal drug activity. Because narcotics inevitably lead to other crimes, the task force has also been instrumental in helping solve cases involving theft, burglary, assault, sexual assault and more.


"We average two felony arrests a week," Appel stated.

He spoke of a local market controlled by the gang MS-13, who would set up quick deals in Worthington, then head back to Sioux Falls, S.D. One instance that Appel reported was of enforcers who showed up from Mexico and kidnapped a gang member, holding him for ransom.

"We have not seen or heard of him since," Appel said.

One advantage of a multi-jurisdictional task force is its ability to work with other task force agencies.

"There are currently 22 task forces in the state of Minnesota," Appel said, adding that they all work together, trading knowledge and expertise, to get the bad guys off the streets.

Currently, the BRDTF has 5¾ agents and is made up of support and/or personnel from Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock Counties, as well as the Worthington, Slayton, Fulda and Adrian police departments. They are based in the Law Enforcement Center at the Prairie Justice Center in Worthington. Because the task force members come from a variety of agencies, their knowledge of people and known criminals covers a wide area.

Each agent carries a heavy case load, with a number of priority cases in their sights. They welcome out-of-state and federal assistance, and a number of their cases become Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) priority cases.

"With the priority targets, we are always trying to move forward, but we also respond to smaller dealers, just to fill in the gaps," Appel explained. "And those can lead to priority targets."


Public support for the BRDTF has been good, Appel stated, and the group has a positive public presence. BRDTF personnel have done a variety of presentations, educating the public on meth, signs of drug or illegal activity, abuse methods, gang awareness and more.

According to Appel, there are more young people going into treatment for marijuana than any other drug right now, because the plants are so much stronger than they used to be.

Good indicators of how well their task force is doing can be seen in the price of illegal drugs, which has gone up steadily since they task force formed.

Another good indicator is some of the comments BRDTF has intercepted regarding the area:

"That task force has made it tough to get meth here."

"They have everyone running scared."

"It's too hot here."

The task force has seen a reduction in calls for service to problem areas, and the task force's numbers continue to improve as the agents gain experience.


"I can't say enough about the job agents have done," Appel reported. "They are a motivated group."

Do the arrest numbers and the amount of drugs they are confiscating mean there is more illegal activity going on in the area?

"Not necessarily," Appel stated. "These guys have gained more experience and are more effective in getting the stuff off the street."

But now is not the time to cut back on agents or slow down on their intensity, Appel emphasized.

"I could easily take six more agents and keep them just as busy," he said. "We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg."

Bob Bushman, statewide gang and drug task force coordinator, let the city, county and school district leaders know that the BRDTF scored highest in the state last year, and that the price of meth has doubled in the area.

"But that also means that drug buys are now costing more," he cautioned.

Bushman praised the task force, not only for its success statistics, but for the cooperative efforts that are taking place in the area.


"That isn't always the case in larger areas," he stated. "Out here, they work to share resources, which means you get good bang for your buck."

With questions of funding on everyone's mind these days, Bushman let the leaders he was speaking to know that the drug problems are by no means a thing of the past, and that the BRDTF will need continued funding.

"You have everything going in the right direction here," he stated. "But you can never get ahead of the drug problem. It is everywhere and always there."

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