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North Dakota Oil Boom Increases Crime, Costs, Road Mayhem

Dickinson, North Dakota, police report a 400% increase in burglary investigations, a 300% increase in assault and sex crimes, and a 200% increase in property crime investigations. Mayor Dennis Johnson blames the oil boom and says the city is hiring more police.

I happened to meet a gentleman here in Spearfish Sunday who said he just moved here after quitting the North Dakota oilpatch. He said he was clearing six figures, but he just couldn't take the work and the lifestyle any more. The oilpatch veteran said he sometimes worked over 130 hours a week. He said milk costs nine bucks a gallon in places around the oil fields. Some apartments rent for $2500 a month. The roads are hashed by the heavy truck traffic, and road wrecks and fatalities are far too common. he looks forward to working regular hours as a diesel mechanic and relaxing with his fishing pole here in the Black Hills.

My new neighbor says the conventional wisdom on the oilpatch is that North Dakota's oil go-go times will last about 30 years. How Dickinson and North Dakota soft-land when the oil dries up is a good question... and surely not a question the oil companies are asking. Their paradigm is to use up the land just as they use of people and communities. Exploit, exploit, exploit....


  1. Bernie Hunhoff 2011.11.29

    I talked to a North Dakota state lawmaker awhile back, and he says there are a lot of concerns about how the state might cope post-oil-boom. For example, he says the current generation of young people -- especially young males -- are not bothering to get a well rounded education because there is plenty of money to be made without schooling in the oil patch. But if those jobs go away, he says there could be an entire generation or two with substandard education and no work in 20 or 30 years. Some think they need to take classes to the Oil Patch and make it easier for youth to get a non-traditional education.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2011.11.29

    Some blame crime on poverty and lack of opportunity. I always thought quality of the person determined if they would do crime. In North Dakota they have opportunity and money and crime still goes up. If the priorities and values are not good, there is no limit to the bad that can happen. If the values are good, one can endure a lot of stress and stay very good.

  3. Wayne Pauli 2011.11.29

    Back in the mid 1980's I was a banker in Colorado. I also served on a regional economic development board in Eastern Colorado. This was the era when the oil companies pulled out of the shale oil fields in Western Colorado actually leaving modern day ghost towns. See Black Sunday (May 2, 1982). I was part of the group that toured these areas and made plans for how the state could reinvent that area of the State. Basically between the Rockies and Grand Junction were devastated.

    Perhaps North Dakota should read up on this. Pretty fascinating stuff that Exxon started

  4. Stan Gibilisco 2011.11.29

    We might learn something from North Dakota's present and probable future ahead of time, for our own benefit.

    Let us here in the South exploit our wind and sunshine.

    Our South Dakota winds will still blow, and our sun will still shine, long after our Northern neighbors have gulped all their goo from the ground.

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