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Captcha
08-22-2010, 11:55 PM
I want to send my character to a US state along the Canadian border (probably Montana, but I'm open to changes if necessary) as part of a gov't body to stop the smuggling of marijuana in from Canada. I want her to come in as a sort of "the law's the law and it must be enforced" type, and then, through the course of the book, to start wondering whether the resources being spent on enforcing that particular law are worth it. Ideally, her job would be flexible enough that she'd be able to stay near the area once the assignment is done.

So, who does she work for? DEA for drugs, right? But it seems to me that someone who works for the DEA would already have put quite a bit of thought into the "prohibition doesn't work" arguments, and have decided that it's worth fighting the fight. I'd rather have somebody who's aware of the situation but hasn't struggled with it throughout her career.

FBI? Do FBI officers specialize in certain crime types (ie. would she likely be just as familiar with all the arguments as if she were a DEA agent)? Do they get involved with international cases?

CIA? (please tell me 'no', but I'd like to be sure)

State police? Maybe she just gets transferred to the district and the drugs are their biggest concern. State attorney general's office? Do they get involved in this sort of thing?

Anyone else? And does anyone know - in movies, when the feds come in, the local cops always seem resentful. Is this the case in reality, or are the locals sometimes glad of the help?

Thanks for any help, and please feel free to add any extra tidbits of information I might need to know!

ResearchGuy
08-23-2010, 12:15 AM
Have you ever read the acknowledgments in books by John Lescroart (to cite one good example) or Diane Mott Davidson (to cite another)? They give great credit to their subject matter experts in law enforcement and in other areas pertinent to their books.

My recommendation is that you introduce yourself to some law enforcement agents -- explain that you are a writer seeking background for a novel -- and chat them up about the sorts of questions you have. And ask the ones you talk to for referrals to others who can fill in more pieces of the background puzzle.

--Ken

P.S. You are on the right track to be asking such questions. Some of the most unintentionally laughable novels I have read have been by writers who just guess at legal procedure, or make it up out of their imaginations.

Rowan
08-23-2010, 02:39 AM
I want to send my character to a US state along the Canadian border (probably Montana, but I'm open to changes if necessary) as part of a gov't body to stop the smuggling of marijuana in from Canada. I want her to come in as a sort of "the law's the law and it must be enforced" type, and then, through the course of the book, to start wondering whether the resources being spent on enforcing that particular law are worth it. Ideally, her job would be flexible enough that she'd be able to stay near the area once the assignment is done.

So, who does she work for? DEA for drugs, right? But it seems to me that someone who works for the DEA would already have put quite a bit of thought into the "prohibition doesn't work" arguments, and have decided that it's worth fighting the fight. I'd rather have somebody who's aware of the situation but hasn't struggled with it throughout her career.

FBI? Do FBI officers specialize in certain crime types (ie. would she likely be just as familiar with all the arguments as if she were a DEA agent)? Do they get involved with international cases?

CIA? (please tell me 'no', but I'd like to be sure)

State police? Maybe she just gets transferred to the district and the drugs are their biggest concern. State attorney general's office? Do they get involved in this sort of thing?

Anyone else? And does anyone know - in movies, when the feds come in, the local cops always seem resentful. Is this the case in reality, or are the locals sometimes glad of the help?

Thanks for any help, and please feel free to add any extra tidbits of information I might need to know!

Hi, Kate:
Okay, I'm speaking as a former agent so please bear with me. You are correct: DEA is your agency if she's working at the fed level. FBI does work some narcotics cases as does ICE/CBP, but DEA is responsible for the enforcement of Title 21. (FBI has lead on terrorism cases). CIA and drugs as a primary responsibility--not so much. ;)

When I was on the job, I worked on a task force comprised of feds, state and local LE. Sure, there's some rivalry but Hollywood does get carried away in many instances. Keep in mind--the feds generally handle "big" cases (ie., prosecutable on federal level) while state/locals are more likely to go after the little fish. DEA is in the business of taking down cartels and large scale traffickers. Having said that, most CSs come from the pool of street level dealers. If you're talking big loads coming across the border, I'd go with DEA or have her working on a task force (as a state or local narc).

It's not at all unrealistic for a fed or cop at any level to become disenfranchised with the job or the 'mission', especially when you see the same people time and again (arrested and released), or the situation just seems hopeless. Think "hamster on a wheel" scenario. It would add to her character if she starts off as a kick-ass "all drugs are evil" type and then struggles with it after being on the job for a while--maybe she sees things or meets people that make her start to question what she's doing. Or maybe she wonders why she's wasting her efforts on MJ when terrorists groups are selling cocaine and heroin (FARC and Taliban), etc. to fund their activities, etc. Hopefully she comes back around but if not... that's another story! :)

MJ and Canadian border scenario = very good.

I see your MC is a female? Feel free to PM if you want any specifics. Happy to help!

Chase
08-23-2010, 02:53 AM
Kate,

Canadian and US citizens have smuggled everything from soup to nuts back and forth for years. The Bootlegger Trail is a famous dirt road running north from Great Falls, Montana, into Alberta. In my wild, impetuous youth, I used to take parachute equipment north to skydiving meets and bring home 222s (aspirin and codeine sold over the counter in Canada) and Alberta Springs whiskey.

On the US side, The US Border Patrol is responsible for smuggling activities, but I know they work closely with the FBI, DEA, MIB (not Men in Black but Montana Investigation Bureau--probably re-named after the '90s movies), Montana Highway Patrol, and Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks wardens (the best trackers in the world in my opinion).

USBP Headquarters is in Havre, Montana.

Rowan
08-23-2010, 03:04 AM
Here's a good link for you re: DEA office that covers that region:
http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/state_factsheets/montana.html

If you've got drugs coming across, DEA will be your lead agency. ;)

From the Montana page:


(http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/marijuana.html)
Marijuana: (http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/marijuana.html) Marijuana is the most widely abused drug in Montana. Most originates in Mexico and is smuggled into the state by Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations. Locally produced marijuana is primarily grown indoors, with grows generally consisting of less than 100 plants. Potent "BC Bud" or “Kind Bud” from the Pacific Northwest and western Canada is increasing in popularity and availability. It is often smuggled directly into Montana across the Canadian border, and from there is often transshipped to other areas of the United States. (http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/marijuana.html)
(http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/marijuana.html)

Captcha
08-23-2010, 04:31 AM
Excellent information so far, thanks! I'm thinking that the MC may be part of a task force, so I need to know at least a little about all of the possible players.

I'm tentatively thinking about having her work for the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. http://doj.mt.gov/enforcement/criminalinvestigation/default.asp . Seems like that might give me enough flexibility to have her involved in a variety of aspects of the case...does this raise any red flags for anybody?

Rowan
08-23-2010, 04:49 AM
Excellent information so far, thanks! I'm thinking that the MC may be part of a task force, so I need to know at least a little about all of the possible players.

I'm tentatively thinking about having her work for the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. http://doj.mt.gov/enforcement/criminalinvestigation/default.asp . Seems like that might give me enough flexibility to have her involved in a variety of aspects of the case...does this raise any red flags for anybody?

I can only speak to DEA task forces (ie., led by DEA but comprised of fed agents/local and state police). Hopefully someone else can help you with the Montana DOJ/DCI angle. :) Maybe you can contact their PIO (Public Information Officer or equivalent) and see if they'd be willing to talk with you??

Cheers and good luck!!!