Western North Dakota’s oil-producing counties have gotten a bit of a bad rap as far as crime goes, but the state’s attorney general says increases in crime there have not been out of line with population increases.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said approximately 25 percent of North Dakotans live in 12 of the busiest oil-producing counties. While crime has increased in those counties, it also has increased across the rest of the state.
Stenehjem unveiled the state’s crime statistics for 2012 on Tuesday.
Stenehjem's office pulled out three crime categories to illustrate the differences in oil country and the rest of North Dakota — rape, drug arrests and aggravated assaults. Rape offenses increased 41 percent — from 34 to 48 — in the 12 counties from 2011 to 2012; however, the 12 counties accounted for 19.75 percent of rape reports statewide, less than its share population-wise.
The oil counties also accounted for only 20.23 percent of the state's drug arrests, though Stenehjem pointed out that the drug arrest rate for those counties has accelerated far faster than the rate for the rest of the state. In 2003, those 12 counties accounted for 115 drug arrests, compared to 581 in 2012.
The oil counties reported 282 of the state's 1,071 aggravated assaults, for 26.33 percent. Last year, the same counties reported 280 aggravated assaults. Statewide, aggravated assaults barely increased, a bit of a reprieve from consistent annual increases since 2007.
Stenehjem's office has worked with Covenant Consulting Group to estimate how many people are living in western North Dakota. The federal Census does not include temporary workers — such as those living in man camps — but Stenehjem said excluding them shows inaccurate statistics. He said approximately 25,000 people are believed to be in such camps. His office’s estimates do not include those who are living in tents or campers and likely is underestimating the true population of the oil patch, he said.