The Midway Lanes marquee sign displays a message of condolence last week for the friends and families of the four people killed at the RJR Maintenance & Management building near the bowling alley in Mandan. 

You need to lock your house and car doors and think seriously about late night walks in the Bismarck-Mandan area. This is no longer a sleepy community where safety isn’t a concern.

While the area’s growth over the last 30-plus years has resulted in economic and cultural benefits it also has opened the door to more crime. Growth can provide more opportunities for people to see what looks like an easy path to money.

That said, Bismarck-Mandan and the rest of North Dakota remain a safe place to live compared to other states.

The latest statistics available for Bismarck show drug violations topped the number of serious crimes reported in 2017. Overall, serious crime increased 3.58 percent from 2016 to 2017. Total calls for service made to police, not including traffic stops, were up to 43,327 in 2017, compared to 40,045 in 2016 and 14.69 percent above the five-year average.

In 2017 the city saw more aggravated assaults and rapes. Serious property crimes increased 4.16 percent from 2016 and were above the five-year average of 5,076. Per capita offenses were at nearly 79 crimes reported per 1,000 people. The population for Bismarck in 2017 was about 72,417, which is about a 1.76 percent increase from 2015.

According to the FBI Report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, Mandan crime statistics are trending upward and will be higher in 2019 compared to 2016. That’s not a surprise.

The report said the violent crime rate for Mandan in 2016 was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 45.08 percent and the property crime rate in Mandan was higher than the national property crime rate average by 48.86 percent.

In 2016 the violent crime rate in Mandan was lower than the violent crime rate in North Dakota by 13.14 percent and the property crime rate in Mandan was higher than the property crime rate in North Dakota by 58.9 percent.

North Dakota's overall crime rate of 6,373.9 per 100,000 people remained relatively unchanged from 2016 to 2017 -- a 0.4 percent increase, according to the attorney general’s office. Drug arrests continue to increase and have about doubled in the state since 2010.

The crime statistics aren’t alarming when you consider the growth the state enjoyed during the oil boom years. It was bound to have an impact on the state. The crime statistics show a rate that remained stable or increased slightly, which should be considered a hopeful sign.

Still, there have been some disturbing cases in Bismarck-Mandan. Both cities have recently had random shootings where homes and vehicles were damaged. There was at least one injury when a pickup was fired upon. The four murders in Mandan were terrifying and was news across the nation. The Mandan police along with other law enforcement agencies did a good job in arresting a suspect within days.

Mandan police said they didn’t believe the public was in danger after the killings, but they did urge caution. When South Central District Judge James Hill set a $1 million bond for the suspect, Chad Isaak, he noted an "extreme safety concern" for the public and those close to the victims.

Only one of the two narratives about Isaak can be true. The Tribune Editorial Board believes the suspect was either a danger or not. We think Hill’s “extreme safety concern” is accurate. Mandan police should have done more than urge caution. Area residents were concerned after four people were killed and police should have warned a dangerous person was being pursued. No motive has been identified so the public doesn’t know what prompted the killings.

There’s no doubt that Bismarck-Mandan remains a safe place to live, but it’s not as safe as it was in 1980 or 1990 or 2000. Residents need to be aware of their surroundings and practice common sense procedures. Mandan police were able to make an arrest last week with help from security cameras from Mandan to Washburn and from tips from the public. Continued diligence will help keep the community safe.

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