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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published July 30 2013

North Dakota crime up 7.9 percent in 2012

BISMARCK – The state’s top attorney on Tuesday unveiled 2012 statistics he said are “not a rosy report for crime in North Dakota.”

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem released the annual report his office compiled from 52 sheriff’s departments and 43 police departments from around the state that found the number of reported crimes increased 7.9 percent from 2011 to 2012. A total of 14,866 offenses were reported, up from 13,778 in 2011.

The report based the statistics on North Dakota’s 2012 population of 699,628 from the U.S. Census Bureau and added 25,000 for the temporary population in oil-producing counties. Based on this population, the crime rate per 100,000 people for 2012 was 2,055, up from the 2,014.5 rate in 2011.

The report breaks down offenses into two categories. Violent crimes are murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes are burglary and theft.

Violent crimes

Violent crimes, which accounted for 10 percent of all crimes in 2012, increased 7.2 percent, from 1,353 to 1,451 in 2012.

The number of murders jumped from 15 to 20. Rapes increased from 207 to 243.

The number of reported rapes has been increasing gradually since 2003. That year, there were 143 reported rapes for the 634,000 population, or 45 reports per 100,000 females compared to 2012’s figure of 69 reports per 100,000 females.

Nationally, violent crimes saw a 1.2 percent increase from 2011 to 2012, according to the FBI.

Property crimes

North Dakota property crimes, which accounted for 90 percent of offenses, increased by 8 percent, with 13,415 reported in 2012 compared with 12,425 in 2011. Nationally, property crimes decreased by 0.8 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Stenehjem found some good news in the statistics – 68 percent of property crimes were for petty theft.

More than $22.2 million worth of property was reported stolen in 2012, with more than 26 percent of that recovered by law enforcement officials.

“If you’re going to be a victim of a crime in North Dakota, it’s going to be larceny or theft,” he said.

The Williams County Sheriff’s Office has been responding to many reports of theft, according to Capt. Verlan Kvande, who said it’s often a result of a lack of security systems in rural areas and large amounts of money around the Oil Patch.

“It can be challenging,” he said. “There’s not a lot to go on, and it’s hard to make recoveries.”

Drugs and alcohol

Stenehjem said his biggest concern is the criminal enterprises coming into the state and distributing drugs.

Drug arrests increased 7.9 percent from 2,662 in 2011 to 2,872 in 2012.

He said in 2003 the drug operations were far removed from the people making the drugs.

“We now have people coming from places where drugs originate,” he said. “That means the nature of the perpetrators is far more serious.”

Kvande said it used to be uncommon to find high quantities of drugs, but now it’s normal.

“There used to be small-time people here,” he said. “There are some more direct lines coming in now than there ever has been.”

The number of DUI arrests has been “more seriously increasing” since 2008 as well, Stenehjem said.

Law enforcement saw 7,322 DUIs in 2012 compared to the 6,600 in 2011 – a 10.9 percent increase.

In the Oil Patch

When looking at the Oil Patch, the report uses 12 counties in western North Dakota that are the highest areas for oil development.

Stenehjem said the crime statistics should rebuff the claim that the Oil Patch is an unsafe place to live. When looking at the statewide statistics, the number of aggravated assaults in the Oil Patch increased at the lowest rate. Statewide, 1,071 cases were reported compared with 282 in the oil-producing counties, a less than 1 percent increase from the 280 reported in 2011.

“To characterize this as the wild, wild West wouldn’t be accurate,” he said. “The likelihood to be a victim there is no greater than any part of the state.”

Stenehjem highlighted McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams counties – the three busiest oil-producing counties – as the most overwhelmed counties as their populations continue to grow.

“Those three counties are areas where people need to be careful,” he said. “Agents are saying they are overwhelmed doing more reaction work than proactive work.”

In Williston, the total number of offenses continues to increase, but local police officials don’t believe the growing crime is out of proportion with the growing population, said Williston Assistant Police Chief Tom Ladwig.

“Just about everything right across the board has gone up, but then again, so has the population,” Ladwig said. “When you have more people, you have more crime.”

Oil Patch law enforcement agencies will have access to $16.6 million in energy impact grants this biennium to fight crime in the rapidly growing communities.

“It’s intense, it’s hard to keep up with, but we’re managing to keep our noses above water,” Ladwig said.

Forum News Service reporter Amy Dalrymple contributed to this report