Build the wall.
Methamphetamine is the second most common illegal drug being distributed in large quantities into Montana, with marijuana being the first. It comes by way of the interstate system and directly from Mexican drug cartels.
“They are making it in super labs,” said Lt. Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department.
“So you are getting high purities 98 percent, 99 percent pure meth,” he said.
Montana communities are seeing the impacts of the drug trade first-hand, leaving local law enforcement left to deal with an increase in crimes associated with meth.
It’s something the city of Billings and law enforcement know all too well.
Violent crimes across the state of Montana have increased 34 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In Billings alone, violent meth-driven crimes have increased by 75 percent from 2010 to 2017, according to the Billings Police Department.
The Eastern Montana High-Intensity Drug Task Force
For over two years, Wooley served as commander of the Eastern Montana High-Intensity Drug Task Force, or HIDTA, working undercover and in sometimes less than ideal conditions, to gain information that could dismantle and take down drug organizations coming into Montana.
Today, he’s moved on from that position and is able to speak candidly and openly about the drug scene in Billings.
“We’ve done search warrants in literally every neighborhood in this community. In neighborhoods that you would go and see a couple of million-dollar homes, and here we are executing search warrants related to drug trafficking in these neighborhoods,” said Wooley.
Billings serves as the host agency for HIDTA ,but it’s a multi-jurisdictional task force composed of local officers from city, county and federal organizations such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Homeland Security. The task force is federally funded through grants from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In 2017, the drug task force kicked into high gear with over 56 pounds of meth and $300,000 in bulk cash seized off the streets.
“Just this year alone, to date, there are over 120 pounds of meth and over $600,000 in bulk cash seizures,” said Wooley.