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Published July 02 2012

Attorney general: Oil Patch crime rate on par with rest of North Dakota

BISMARCK – The likelihood of being a victim of a crime in North Dakota’s Oil Patch is not much different than it is in the rest of the state and may even be lower in some cases, the state’s attorney general said Monday.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem released North Dakota’s crime statistics for 2011 on Monday and addressed crime perceptions in North Dakota’s oil cities in the western part of the state.

“While it is certainly accurate that crime is up and up considerably in a worrisome way in some of those counties in the Oil Patch, the major reason that is happening is because the population is up,” Stenehjem said.

The number of aggravated assaults reported in the oil counties increased from 180 in 2010 to 279 in 2011 – a 55 percent increase. However, the population of those counties also increased from 148,515 to 180,434 between 2010 and 2011 – up 21 percent. That population estimate includes people living in the crew camps that have sprung up to house an influx of workers.

Overall, 27 percent of the state’s aggravated assaults occurred in the oil counties that make up 25 percent of the state’s population, Stenehjem said.

“So, the chance of anybody being a victim of an aggravated assault (in the Oil Patch) really is about the same as it is across the rest of North Dakota,” Stenehjem said.

Although women may be worried about an increased risk for rape in western North Dakota – which has seen an influx of male oil workers – the odds are statistically lower than elsewhere in the state, he said.

The statewide number of forcible rapes decreased from 222 in 2010 to 207 in 2011. Sixteen percent of rapes occurred in oil counties, Stenehjem said.

Overall in 2011, 13,778 crime index offenses were reported by local law enforcement agencies statewide, according to the Crime in North Dakota report.

This is an increase of 10.9 percent from the 12,427 reported in 2010 but is lower than a decade high of 15,239 in 2002 when the state had at least 50,000 fewer residents.

Crime index offenses include murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft. The report does not cover traffic offenses, Stenehjem said.

Crime is up in about every category in North Dakota, but the state’s population has also increased, Stenehjem said.

The number of crimes in the state in the past decade has remained relatively stable, and

North Dakota will maintain its status as one of the safest states in the country, he said.

His greatest concerns are the increasing number of aggravated assaults and DUIs across the state.

Reports of aggravated assault increased by 22.8 percent from 847 in 2010 to 1,040 in 2011. Aggravated assault involves serious bodily injury to the victim, or the offender uses or displays a weapon in a threatening manner.

Stenehjem said his staff will go through all of the aggravated assaults in recent years to see whether there are patterns that can explain why the increase is occurring or give ideas on how to reduce the numbers.

He also is concerned about the increase in DUI arrests from 6,050 in 2010 to 6,600 in 2011. One-third of arrests are of repeat offenders, he said.

About 10 percent of the state’s crimes are violent, one of the lowest rates in the nation. The remaining 90 percent are property crimes. There were 1,353 violent crimes in North Dakota last year, including 15 murder/non-negligent manslaughter cases.

There were 12,425 property crimes. More than $16.2 million worth of property was reported stolen in 2011 with about one-third of that amount reported as recovered by law enforcement officials, the report said.

The index crime rate per 100,000 people for 2011 was 2,014.5 based on a state population of 683,932. This is a 9 percent increase in the crime rate of 1,847.6 in 2010.

However, state officials believe the state’s population is at least 700,000 when crew camp beds are taken into consideration, so the year-to-year percentage increase in the crime rate is likely lower.

Online

To read the entire report, go to: www.ag.state.nd.us/Reports/BCIReports/CrimeHomicide/Crime11.pdf


Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications


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