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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem talks about state crime statistics during a news conference in his office at the state Capitol in Bismarck on Monday. Stenehjem is pointing to a bar graph showing the correlation with the increase in state population and the number of drug arrests in 2010 of 2,369 compared to 5,078 in 2017. 

It’s good news that the state’s crime rate didn’t change much from 2016 to 2017, though a drop in the crime rate would have been better.

The state’s overall crime rate of 6,373.9 per 100,000 people showed a 0.4 percent increase from 2016-2017, according to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. North Dakota remains a safe place where residents are comfortable going most places at night. Going for a walk or taking a bike ride in the state isn’t an adventure.

The crime statistics did reveal some interesting facts.

We still have a drinking problem despite the fact that the numbers have improved. Driving under the influence arrests accounted for 16 percent of all arrests in the state during 2017. That’s compared to 27 percent in 2012-13 before DUI reforms were approved by the Legislature. Sixteen percent is still too high. North Dakota usually ranks high in alcohol abuse statistics and law enforcement has been diligent in cracking down. The state will be a safer place if fewer people drink and drive.

Our murder rate remains low. The number of homicides statewide dropped from 17 in 2016 to 12 last year. It shows a state can have no death penalty and not worry about a lot of murders. Aggravated assaults, however, did increase 7.4 percent over the previous year.

There were some categories that showed increases that may be due to more reporting and intensified law enforcement.

Reports of rapes increased 19 percent from 2016 to 2017. That could be the result of more offenses or victims feeling more comfortable reporting the crimes to authorities. We hope it’s the latter because that would indicate people aren’t willing to allow rapists to get away with the crime. More pornography and obscene material were seized as state and local officials put a focus on child porn with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

As the digital world expands so does crime related to it. Hacking and computer invasion increased from one case in 2016 to 22 last year. Officials expect there are more victims who aren’t reporting the crimes.

Property crimes account for over half of all offenses with $37.2 million in property stolen last year.

Still, residents can feel secure in living in North Dakota. We haven’t escaped the problems that plague the rest of the nation, but it’s been on a smaller scale. Drugs have been coming into our state and drug arrests increased 4.4 percent last year. The potency of the drugs has increased and they can be found with all age groups. Marijuana accounts for about half of the drug arrests. It’s likely North Dakotans will vote on allowing the recreational use of marijuana in November. If that passes it will prompt a massive debate.

In announcing the crime statistics on Monday, Stenehjem highlighted an interesting aspect of the report. Crime in the oil patch isn’t any worse than elsewhere in the state. The 19 oil producing counties account for 28 percent of the state’s population and 25 percent of the aggravated assaults, drug arrests and homicides in 2017.

The Wild West isn’t wild any more. While there’s room for improvement, you can travel the state without fear. It’s a good feeling.