Published June 01 2013
Forum editorial: Ignore this stuff at your perilThe crime news from North Dakota’s booming oil counties paints a mixed and often manipulated picture of what is happening out there. It’s not all that bad or it’s out of control. It’s the media’s focus on the negative or local see-no-evil cheerleading.
The reality is somewhere between the extremes. But make no mistake about it: Whether crime of all kinds is up a lot or a little, the change from pre-oil boom times is startling and worrisome to the folks who live with it every day. Responses to the change confirm that no matter how crime statistics are framed, both perception and fact of increasing crime constitute a decline in quality of life, as it was defined prior to the boom.
Recent news is instructive:
- A local government has threatened to sanction private man camps that are not policing criminal activity in and around their facilities.
- Oil Patch cities are so desperate to hire law enforcement personnel that they are signing on officers who are far too young and inexperienced to be credible.
- Violations of truck safety and driver log requirements are at epidemic levels. Those are crimes, by the way.
- So many new people to the patch accessed medical care, then skipped out and didn’t pay the bills, that the Legislature appropriated millions of dollars to keep hospitals from going under. That’s not the North Dakota way.
- Applications for gun permits, particularly among women, continue to set records, another indication people do not feel safe.
- Key legislators were advised by federal and state law enforcement agencies that organized crime – out-of-state criminal elements that traffic illegal drugs, deal with prostitution and business scams – are trying to get a foothold in oil country because oil country is where the money is. It is serious stuff, and new to the state’s crime landscape.
The obvious benefits – to the entire state – of go-go oil and gas development cannot be denied. It’s extraordinarily good news. But there’s an undeniable dark side. North Dakotans who spin it or soft-pedal it do so at their peril.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.