The oil boom in the western U.S. has an unintended consequence – skyrocketing crime rates.
The New York Times has a fascinating look about how the oil fields in North Dakota and Montana are turning the area into a modern-day “wild west.” People come looking for work – which means more money and more crime.
Amid all of that new money, reports of assault and theft have doubled or even tripled, and the police say they are rushing from call to call, grappling with everything from bar brawls and shoplifting to kidnappings and attempted murders. Traffic stops for drunken or reckless driving have skyrocketed; local jails are spilling over with drug suspects.
Last year, a study by officials in Montana and North Dakota found that crime had risen by 32 percent since 2005 in communities at the center of the boom. In Watford City, N.D., where mile-long chains of tractor-trailers stack up at the town’s main traffic light, arrests increased 565 percent during that time. In Roosevelt County in Montana, arrests were up 855 percent, and the sheriff, Freedom Crawford, said his jail was so full that he was ticketing and releasing offenders for minor crimes like disorderly conduct.
“I don’t have nowhere to put them,” Sheriff Crawford said.