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Published March 23 2013

Forum editorial: Oil Patch crimes more than statistics

Two recent murders in North Dakota’s Oil Patch, this time in Williams County (Williston), do not of themselves constitute a crime wave. But the increase in serious and not-so-serious crime does.

Manipulating statistics can characterize oil country crime as a benign consequence of population growth. But that’s exactly the point. As oil industry-driven population increases have affected oil counties and cities, there indeed has been a corresponding increase in crime. It is likely the increases are larger than reported because Oil Patch law enforcement officers routinely report that they are unable to respond to a significant percentage of crime calls. They are short on manpower. Those crimes, however minor, do not appear in the statistics, but they are crimes nevertheless.

Where the real effects of crime do appear, however, is in the change longtime residents of oil towns feel. One need not be a statistician or police officer to grasp the new and unprecedented frequency of crime, whether reported officially or anecdotally. It alters people’s perceptions of their communities. Sugar-coating or denying the reality residents of oil country experience every day will not solve the problem.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.