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Charly Haley, Published February 28 2013

Gallup: ND drops from No. 2 state in well-being to No. 19

FARGO – Ending its three-year run as one of the top 10 states in rankings for overall well-being, North Dakota dropped from No. 2 to No. 19 in 2012, according to a Gallup survey released Thursday.

The survey was based one life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access. North Dakota showed the greatest decreases in the life evaluation and work environment categories, with life evaluation dropping from No. 3 in the nation to No. 26 and work environment dropping from No. 1 to No. 11.

Minnesota ranked No. 3 for the second year in a row, below only Colorado and Hawaii – the latter being the top state four years running.

North Dakota’s other neighbors also ranked higher on the list, with Montana at No. 6 and South Dakota at No. 12. But the state is still above the national average in the rankings the pollster uses.

“I think (North Dakota is) a good, clean state to live in,” said Carol Clancy, 69, of West Fargo. She thinks the state’s rank may have gone down because of rising crime driven by the oil boom in the west.

“The crime rate is low, but it’s climbing,” Clancy said. “North Dakota is growing, and I think the law enforcement and laws had better grow with it.”

According to information from the North Dakota Attorney General’s office, total crime offenses increased by 10.9 percent with 13,778 offenses reported in 2011, compared to 12,427 reported in 2010. Data from 2012 was not available.

Lisa Backen, 46, of Fargo, agreed that the increasing population and crime might help explain North Dakota’s lower ranking.

“You hate to say it, but it seems you hear about a little more riff-raff with (the Oil Patch workers) coming in,” she said.

Despite 2012’s lower rank, many locals had positive comments to offer.

Backen grew up near Harvey, a town of about 1,800 in north-central North Dakota, which is “a whole different world” from Fargo, she said.

Thu Nguyen, 22, has lived in Fargo for five years.

“I feel like it’s nice, because it’s safer than most bigger cities,” she said. “It’s clean but kind of boring.”

Minnesota residents credited safety and friendliness with their home state’s steady spot at the top of the well-being list.

“It’s a nice place to live,” said Gene Erickson, 65, of Moorhead. “You don’t feel like you’ve got to be looking over your shoulder all the time, and that’s worth a lot.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311