ND Oil County Crime Numbers On Par With Ten Years Ago
Earlier today I wrote about some of the unfair coverage oil patch crime gets, especially surrounding stories such as the murder which took place in Tioga last weekend. It is my opinion that the media, be it because of a political agenda or simply a desire to pump up readership/viewership, tends to sensationalize some of these events which, in turn, feeds into false perceptions.
That there are a number of political interests who would just as soon see oil production in western North Dakota grind to a halt doesn’t help when it comes to having an honest debate about these matters.
Anyway, in the comments of that debate we started a debate about oil patch crime statistics. Some readers wanted to see statistics for crimes in oil patch counties. Using crime reports compiled by the North Dakota Attorney General’s office I pulled out statistics for seven key types of serious crimes – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft – for all members of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties. Per their map, the group’s membership list consists of all of the western “oil patch” counties.
I didn’t use the population numbers included in the AG’s reports as I didn’t find them to be all that accurate. For instance, Williston’s population is listed in the report for 2011 as just over 14,000 citizens. But according to census estimates the population is over 16,000, and according to real-world estimates the number of people living in Williston right now is probably closer to around 30,000. Because it’s difficult to get an accurate population count in the oil patch right now, I left population out of the equation other than to say that we know population in these areas has increased dramatically.
Here’s a chart based on my findings (here’s my spreadsheet, reports are linked above if anyone cares to check my math):
As you can see, crimes in the “oil patch” are about on par with the level of crime from a decade ago despite higher populations.
That being said, we do see a troubling reversal of a downward trend in crime in these counties corresponding with the oil boom. It would be nice to have reliable population data to put that upward trend into perspective, an increase in crime correlating to an increase in population might mean a wash in terms of crime rates, but it is what it is, and it is something North Dakota’s law enforcement and political leaders should be concerned about.Tags: bakken, crime, North Dakota News, oil