Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On February 21, 2023, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force announced its statistics for the first six weeks of 2023 compared to 2022 numbers.  

2023 numbers so far: 

  • 6,287.27 grams (13.86 pounds) of meth  
  • 25,896 fentanyl pills  
  • $59,791  
  • 19 guns  
  • 277.99 grams of powdered fentanyl  
  • 2282.09 grams (5.03 pounds) of cocaine  
  • 309.73 grams of heroin  
  • 16.83 grams of psilocybin mushrooms  

Comparatively, Missoula HIDTA has seized the following percentages in the first six weeks of 2023 compared to ALL of 2022:  

  • 203% increase in fentanyl pill seizures  
  • 104% increase in cocaine seizures  
  • 95% of last year’s cash seizures  
  • 46% of last year’s powdered fentanyl seizures  
  • 27% of last year’s meth seizures  
  • 26% of last year’s heroin seizures 

The task force is a collaborative effort of local and state law enforcement agencies (DEA, ATF, USMS, FBI, HSI, MT DCI, Probation and Parole, the Missoula County Attorney’s office, US Attorney’s office, and the MT Attorney General’s office), and community leaders dedicated to addressing the ongoing drug epidemic in the city.

Taking a Deep Dive Into the Statistics 

On February 23, 2023, Missoula Police Department Lieutenant and Task Force Commander Sean Manraksa appeared on KGVO’s Talk Back show to discuss these most recent statistics. 

“It is bittersweet,” Manraksa said. “Obviously, we like to see those big numbers, but I also understand what those numbers mean and that there is more of it out there. How much are we missing? How much did we miss in 2022? What didn’t we get? What didn’t we accomplish? The difference is great, good job team, but also it worries me a lot that there is more and more being pushed in.” 

According to Manraksa, there is one statistic in particular that is the most alarming. 

“The fentanyl pills and how many of them are out there,” Manraksa said. “If it tells me that we have already seized this many, I wonder how many we didn’t seize in 2022. How many dealers continue to be confident, get bold, and have no fear of consequences? We are actively trying to change that perception.” 

Managing the Message

Manraksa said another way to change that perception is to release as much public information as they can. 

“I don’t think we as an organization, or we as a community, have been publicly addressing it enough,” Manraksa said. “I think that message needs to get out there. This is a multiphase process. I wanted to come back and tell everybody we are relentlessly pursuing the distributors. We are aggressively prosecuting you. It’s a different time, it’s a different era, and we have had enough.” 

Manraksa mentioned that they would like to charge drug dealers in cases where their customers have died of an overdose. 

“It is training and it is public perception,” Manraksa said. “Routinely, the public just assumes that it is another drug addict that was hooked on fentanyl and that they have a sad story, but it is so much different than that now. It used to be that way, but that is not the case anymore. Kids are dying from fentanyl overdoses. We are looking to charge distributors of fentanyl specifically with criminal homicide.” 

How We Can Help

One caller asked Manraksa what the public can do to help and Manraksa said they really need more officers. He recommended that folks talk to their elected officials and ask for more personnel to help fight this fight. 

“People don’t routinely like adding more police to their police force, but with these numbers, it is hard to argue,” Manraksa said. ‘We need more investigators to combat the problems. We can’t run this operational tempo forever. You guys see me with red eyes this morning because we are running all hours of the day all week long. My team can’t sustain an operational tempo like this indefinitely. We need more people to help take some of the load off.” 

Manraksa has agreed to appear on KGVO regularly to share current statistics and to let the public know about the battles they are facing on a daily basis. Click here if you want to listen to Manraksa's full interview. 

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