Oil Boom Leads to Crime Increase In Montana, North Dakota Towns


In Montana and North Dakota places in the heart of oil booms, crime has soared as thousands of workers and rivers of cash have flowed into towns, straining police departments and shattering residents' sense of safety, reports the New York Times. “It just feels like the modern-day Wild West,” said Sgt. Kylan Klauzer, an investigator in Dickinson, N.D., where police handled 41 violent crimes last year, up from seven only five years ago. The violence shows how a modern-day gold rush can transform farm towns where people once fretted about a population drain. Four-story chain hotels are rising, and small apartments rent for $2,000 a month. Fast-food restaurants offer $300 signing bonuses for new employees, and jobs as gas station attendants can pay $50,000 a year.

Amid the new money, reports of assault and theft have doubled or even tripled, and the police rush 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 in Montana and North Dakota found that crime had risen by 32 percent since 2005 in communities at the center of the boom. Sheriff Freedom Crawford of Roosevelt County, Mt., said, “I don't have nowhere to put [offenders].”

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