Billings, MT -

The booming Bakken oil patch that's given a major boost to U.S. energy production has emerged as a new front in the fight against drug trafficking.

Organized crime rings are popping up in once-quiet Northern Plains communities, where traffickers sense opportunity in the thousands of workers lured to the region's oil fields hoping for a big paycheck.

Law-enforcement officers across the region have teamed up to crack down, and netted one of their most significant breaks to date this week -- a dozen drug-related arrests in Montana and four in North Dakota.

Authorities said more arrests are in the works as part of an interagency partnership unveiled Friday. But they face an uphill climb with drug offenses, violence and property crimes on the upswing.