SIDNEY, Mont. — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today held a roundtable discussion to discuss law enforcement needs, coordination and approaches to combating the continuing criminal activity in the Bakken region, as well as the need for the temporary Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent presence in Sidney to be made permanent.
During the roundtable, Daines presented John Dynneson, Richland County Sheriff with a letter he sent today to FBI Director James Comey requesting a meeting to discuss the need to maintain a permanent FBI presence in Sidney.
“I heard loud and clear the need to maintain the FBI presence in Sidney to protect the safety of Montanans,”Daines stated. “One of my highest priorities is keeping Montanans safe and this FBI office serves an integral role in reaching that goal.”
“I’m really appreciative of the fact that Senator Daines took the time to meet with us and hear from us directly about how important and needed the FBI presence is in Sidney,” Frank Difanzo, Sidney Police Department Chief stated. “I appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts with Senator Daines – who is going to take them straight to the top in DC.”
“I appreciate the Senator making the trip to visit Sidney and taking the time to learn about the challenges facing all levels of law enforcement in eastern Montana,” Julia Meredith, FBI Agent in Sidney stated. “The FBI has been welcomed by the community, and has been able to make inroads in the narcotics trafficking in the area. We are carefully evaluating the best way to provide federal law enforcement support to Sidney and the surrounding area over the next several years.”
Attendees at the rountable included:
- John Dynneson, Richland County Sheriff
- Frank Difanzo, Sidney Police Department Chief
- Julia Meredith, FBI Agent in Sidney
- Arlin Kaul, Border Patrol Agent in Charge- Plentywood
- Bob Burnison, Richland County Undersheriff
- Shane Gorder, Richland County Commissioner
- Loren Young, Richland County Commissioner
- Duane Mitchell, Richland County Commissioner
- Rick Norby, Sidney Mayor
In January 2014, Daines sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey urging the FBI to maintain its current presence in Sidney.
Daines’ letter is available below or to download HERE.
Dear Director Comey:
I am writing to request a meeting with you to discuss the need to maintain a permanent Federal Bureau of Investigation presence in Sidney, Montana. It is my understanding that the current temporary duty station in Sidney is scheduled to terminate in July 2017.
Removal of the physical presence of FBI agents from the region is ill-advised and would be detrimental to the ongoing work of law enforcement in the region. Area law enforcement officials have conveyed their concerns over high rates of ongoing crime, despite the ebb and flow of commerce, and shared the critical need for federal law enforcement support in Eastern Montana. After conversations with them, it is clear to me that an FBI presence there is critical for our region’s safety and growth. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to maintain your current presence in Sidney.
While the establishment of a permanent field office in Williston, ND, will certainly contribute to law enforcement efforts in the region, it is not well positioned to impact the crime in Sidney. The Williston office may be an hour’s drive away in summer, but it serves a different federal judicial district – lacking relationships with the courts and federal prosecutors in the District of Montana. Additionally, it lacks the physical presence which bolsters local law enforcement efforts and increases the local community’s trust. Williston-based agents will face numerous barriers to being the needed assets in Sidney, including the existing demands of crime in Williston, covering an extensive region, and facing often impassable winter roads.
Though crime spiked in 2012, crime continues to remain at a concerning high. According to the Montana Board of Crime Control’s Crime in Montana: 2012-2013 and Crime in Montana: 2013-2014 reports, crime in the Bakken Region surrounding Sidney was 40% higher in 2014 than 2009. Richland County alone had 125 times the number of offenses in 2014 than it did in 2009, and Sidney sits at the heart of Richland County. Further, the prevalence of crime continues to cause calls for an added High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force in Eastern Montana, a request that I believe further corroborates the importance of maintaining the FBI agents in Sidney.
For these reasons, I respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss the FBI maintaining its presence in Sidney. I appreciate your consideration of this request and I will have my staff reach out to schedule a meeting time.