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Forum Communications, Published August 28 2012

Bar fights becoming more common in Dickinson

DICKINSON, N.D. - Fights, particularly those in or near bars, are becoming more commonplace in Dickinson as the population increases with an oil boom.

In 2009, the Dickinson Police Department received 12 calls for fights all year, Capt. Dave Wilkie said. So far this year, there have been 90 calls for fights, 45 of which have been to bars.

“People get so drunk they lose their inhibitions and they just lose their common sense,” he said. “Most of these people I don’t think would fight on a daily basis.”

While not directly connected, calls for fights are increasing as the oil industry keeps booming. Wilkie said there were 25 fight calls in 2010 and 84 in 2011. Those numbers include fights at all locations, not just those at bars.

After a fight has been reported, resulting charges may vary. Depending on the severity of the incident, charges can range from disorderly conduct to aggravated assault.

Fights involving alcohol happen because the drug clouds a person’s judgement, allowing emotions to control actions, said Corinne Karlin, a licensed addiction counselor with Badlands Human Services in Dickinson.

“It’s a myth that people express their true emotions when they’re drunk,” she said. “The emotion that we see when someone is intoxicated is a drugged emotion, that’s not their true, sincere emotion, that’s a drugged emotion.”

The mix of alcohol, money and a bit of free time can also cause trouble, Wilkie said.

“A lot of the times these people know each other,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s stranger-on-stranger in most cases.”

Fights are a higher risk call and require multiple officers to respond, Wilkie said.

“Our officers have to show up en mass to protect themselves and also to get peace and order back,” he said, adding a fight pulls officers off patrol.

Some area bars have measures in place to curb fighting. Army’s West in Dickinson has a strict no-fighting policy and anyone who does fight is banned from the premises, general manager Milissa Bauer said.

The bar’s bouncers scan IDs at the door with machines that not only flags fakes and those underage, but also those who have caused trouble in the past, she said.

“Treat people like you would want to be treated,” Wilkie said when asked for tips to avoid fights. “Make sure that if you’re going out you’re being responsible.”

There is no single cause for bar fights, or fights in general, he said.

“It could be a combination of all of it,” Wilkie said. “It could be a combination of people not liking other people, people drinking too much, people having too much time together. All of it is a contributing factor, I don’t know if you can say there’s one that’s more or less.”