From the beginning of 2022 to March 15, Montana Highway Patrol troopers have seized 12,079 fentanyl pills—more than three times the total for all of 2021.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen emphasizes the extreme danger fentanyl poses to individuals and how the numbers seem to indicate it's the drug of choice right now.
“We are seizing a lot of fentanyl on Montana highways,” Knudsen said, “We know that large, large shipments of fentanyl—and methamphetamine—but fentanyl specifically are coming across that southern border.”
The Bozeman Police Department’s Captain Joseph Swanson describes trying to stay a step ahead of the fentanyl curve, in an attempt to prevent overdoses or having the drug falling into the hands of children.
“It’s one of our new emerging trends. This is the reality—we’re a growing community,” Cpt. Swanson said. “This is something we do on a day-to-day basis.”
Swanson notes that education and awareness is important, not just for the department and other agencies, but for communities at large.
“If you see something suspicious, if you see something that looks like a drug sale or someone that is potentially under the influence,” Cpt. Swanson said, “Someone out in the community that has a family member that is suffering from addiction, and can certainly have some insight and some impact in that person’s life—more than any arrest.”
Calls to the department can be made anonymously.
A $300,000 grant through the Montana Department of Justice, was dispersed throughout the state for agencies to acquire, retrain, or replace K9 units—K9 Officer Stretch being one of those units.
“In all the years of crime fighting and drug fighting that we’ve done in this country, there is still no better tool than a dog's nose,” Knudsen said.
K9 Officer Stretch is trained to detect cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin—and any derivatives. Fentanyl, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, is often used to adulterate cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or other street drugs.
“He has cued in, I think, a few times already that we’ve had fentanyl,” K9 Officer Braden Peterson said. “A lot of it is coming through counterfeit pills.”
Peterson notes that Stretch is very energetic and motivated when out on the job.