Drug and alcohol abuse are at high levels throughout the state of Alaska, leading to widespread efforts by DEA agents both in major cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks and more rural areas of the state. According to a 2011 analysis by the Alaska State Troopers, over 59% of the violent crimes in the state had a drug and/or alcohol component.
Alaska’s unique climate and geography pose a number of challenges for special agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the state. The DEA District Office in Alaska is located in Anchorage, while Fairbanks has a post of duty that houses many of the DEA jobs in the state.
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Two DEA task forces operate out of the Anchorage District Office. They are comprised of DEA agents and members of other agencies, both federal and local. The Enforcement Group (SDEU) has officers from the Alaska State Troopers (AST) and the Anchorage Police Department (APD) that have been federally deputized. Their focus is on large drug trafficking organizations.
The other DEA task force is the Alaska Interdiction Task Force (AITF). In addition to DEA agents, it consists of AST, APD, and Airport Police officers that have also been federally deputized. Other federal agencies are involved as they are needed. This task force investigates drug trafficking at ports of entry, including both passengers and cargo.
Interdiction Efforts by the DEA in Alaska
The connection between violent and property crimes with the sale and use of drugs in Alaska has led those engaged in careers with the DEA to work closely with the Alaska State Troopers and other local law enforcement officials to fight the distribution and sale of illicit drugs in Alaska. Several high profile recent busts in Alaska demonstrate the critical role that the DEA plays in fighting drug crime in the state.
- In January 2013, a joint raid by DEA, IRS, and local law enforcement officials led to the seizure of 239 marijuana plants and 7.5 ounces of heroin. These efforts disrupted the commercial production of pot plants in trailers, along with a smuggling operation for heroin. Four individuals were arrested.
- August 2012 saw a massive bust of former and current Anchorage residents by the DEA, other federal agencies, and various local authorities. This operation spanned several states, along with Fairbanks and Anchorage. A number of current and former members of the rap group UNDB (Up North D Boys) were arrested and charged with conspiring to transport marijuana, oxycodone, and over 50 kg of cocaine into Alaska.
- Crimes associated with the drug trade ripple through society, and the DEA also investigates other types of crime relating to the sale of drugs. As the result of a joint operation between the DEA and the IRS, a bookkeeper from Houston, Alaska, received a prison sentence in March 2013 for preparing false income tax returns for drug dealers.
What it Takes to Become a DEA Agent in Alaska
To begin formal DEA Academy training, requirements include either having previous experience investigating drug operations, a LL.B. or J.D. degree, or a having a Bachelor’s Degree combined with relevant experience. Such experience can include being a pilot, accountant, or captain or first mate in the shipping industry.
Alaska residents who wish to become DEA agents in the state should contact the Seattle Division to identify potential DEA jobs in the Anchorage office. Applicants must be in excellent physical health, have good hearing and vision, and be free from emotional or mental illness.
Recruits will be formally trained at the DEA Academy in Quantico, Virginia, before they work as special agents in the field. Additional training will take place at the FBI Academy, also in Quantico. DEA agents in training will learn to use firearms, pursuit and defensive driving, and be trained in physical fitness at the FBI Academy.
Addressing the Drug Problem in Alaska
Fighting the drug trade in Alaska is complicated by the state’s cold climate. Because of this, much of the cultivation of marijuana takes place indoors, which makes it much harder for DEA agents to locate. In addition, Alaska’s location on the Pacific Rim makes it vulnerable to drug smugglers from Asia, as well as those from Canada and the Northern United States, including California.
Marijuana – Fighting the sale of pot in the state is particularly problematic for DEA agents. Nearly 261 pounds of marijuana was seized in Alaska in 2011. Pot produced in the state tends to have an exceptionally high THC content, making it highly desirable. For this reason, Alaska is considered an export state for this drug.
The production of this drug has boosted the economy of some Alaskan communities. The widespread nature of marijuana trafficking in Alaska is shown by the charge or arrest of over 1,200 individuals for offenses relating to pot in 2011 alone.
Cocaine – This drug is widely used in Alaska and is readily available in most parts of the state. Kilogram quantities are smuggled on travelers, in luggage, or by commercial carriers and then broken down into smaller units to be distributed for sale. In 2011, task forces using SDEU investigators seized 37 pounds of cocaine. This led to 108 charges/arrests involving cocaine trafficking in Alaska.
Heroin – The abuse of this drug has reached epidemic proportions in Anchorage. In addition, smaller Alaskan communities are also feeling the effects of heroin abuse. Heroin has become a drug of choice for many people that previously abused prescription painkillers. As the DEA and other agencies have cracked down on prescription drug abuse in Alaska, the prices of these drugs has risen greatly. Heroin is currently a much cheaper alternative.
Heroin abuse has become such a health problem that, in Anchorage alone, over twice as many people died from drug overdoses between 2008 and 2009 as from car crashes. In 2011, 118 people were arrested or charged in crimes involving heroin abuse or sale.
Alcohol – Alcohol abuse is a serious problem in Alaska, leading to a high number of suicides, accidental deaths, and homicides. Because of this, 108 Alaskan communities had banned selling, importing, and/or possessing alcohol as of 2011. This prohibition has led to such a high degree of demand that a 750 ml bottle of alcohol can fetch up to $300 in these communities.
To fight the crime associated with alcohol smuggling and abuse, Alaska has a program unique in the country. The DEA helps to sponsor the Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team. Over 680 gallons of illegal alcohol was seized in 2011 alone.