Change is afoot for regional task force

The Buffalo Ridge Drug and Violent Crime Task Force (BRDTF) has lost one member county and gained another.

BRDTF Assistant Commander and Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Edison Dengler said Nobles County, which had been part of the task force since it began in 2006, opted out of it a couple months ago. He said the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office decided to focus its resources and funding more locally and work more closely with the Worthington Police Department instead. 

The task force is funded in part by a Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs grant and Dengler said the funding amount is based partially on the coverage area, number of people served and number of agents. That being the case and with Nobles County backing out, Dengler said the task force reached out to other counties in the area to see if they wanted to join. The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners has voted to become part of the BRDTF.

Lincoln County Sheriff Chad Meester said that as a small agency, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office must secure partnerships to engage the criminal activities of the communities it serves because those activities are not typically limited to one area and can be active in other jurisdictions.

“The partnership is also a means of networking and access to resources that Lincoln County could not obtain on its own,” Meester said. “In the past the task force has helped Lincoln County with several significant cases and now it is a chance for us to help out in other communities. By joining our resources of Lincoln County with Murray and Pipestone counties it symbolizes our commitment to our citizens to do whatever we can for our communities.”

With the change the BRDTF is now comprised of law enforcement officers from the sheriff’s offices in Pipestone, Murray and Lincoln counties. Dengler said at least one agent is assigned to the task force from each county. The Task Force commander is Murray County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Chris Lewis.

Due to the change in membership, the BRDTF tip line has a new number because the old number was hosted by Nobles County. The new tip line number is 507-825-1105. The text tip line and app remain the same. People can text 372DTF with a tip to 847811. The app is available in the Apple and Android app stores under BRDTF Tips.

The task force also changed its name about a year ago to the Buffalo Ridge Drug and Violent Crime Task Force instead of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force. Dengler said many violent crimes involve drugs as well, so the task force has evolved to a drug and violent crime task force. He said it will still go by the acronym BRDTF because that’s what people are familiar with.

Along with the name change came a new logo, which is a buffalo on a ridge surrounded by wind turbines, to represent the region served, with the new name underneath to better represent what it does.

Dengler said the task force assists member agencies with anything from community festivals and flood response to shootings, sex trafficking, drugs, burglaries and more.

“We venture off into a lot of different areas just because our agents are really good at making these higher profile investigations and gathering the intel and the evidence and keeping everything on track, and helping out the local agencies do these things,” he said.

Dengler said the task force fosters inter-agency communication and investigations for crimes that stretch beyond the boundary of a single county or even state.

“It’s easier for us to kind of free float through the counties whereas the deputies still have to respond to calls locally,” Dengler said. “They can’t really leave the county to go investigate something in another county because they have responsibilities here.”

The BRDTF is funded by the Office of Justice Programs grant and a per capita levy paid by the member counties. BRDTF Board Chair and Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Hamann said that for 2022 and 2023 the grant was $301,119 and the per capita rate is $4.50. The task force’s total budget for 2022 is $320,869.

Dengler said that if any organizations in the task force’s coverage area would like to arrange a presentation about the task force, they can call their local sheriff’s office and ask to speak with someone from the task force.