North Dakota Oil Boom and Its Impact on Local Policing & Crime

Dr. Carol A. Archbold of the Department of Criminal Justice & Political Science at North Dakota State University has recently released a report on the North Dakota oil boom and its impact on local policing and crime. The report seeks to provide “an empirical foundation for future research on rapid population growth, policing, and crime in western North Dakota.”

While the oil boom in North Dakota has greatly increased state revenue and decreased unemployment rates, it has also resulted in rapid population growth, especially in the Bakken region of the western part of the state. This rapid growth has “created problems with housing, schools, and roads in communities across the region,” and media outlets are reporting that “police agencies in western North Dakota are struggling to keep rampant crime problems under control.” Since the beginning of the oil boom in 2008, “the volume of calls for service has more than doubled for most agencies studied, [and] in several jurisdictions, call volume has more than tripled.” 

The report found, through personal interviews with 101 North Dakota police officers, that “significant change” has occurred since the beginning of the oil boom. The following are a few of the main reported changes:  

  • “Officers/deputies face a heavier workload because of a significant increase in calls for service from the public.” This has resulted in an “increase in communication and collaboration with other local/county, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the area,” as well as better relationships with colleagues because “they depend on one another for support and back-up.”
  • Agencies now “struggle with retention issues because of the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing.” This makes hiring difficult and agencies have found that extension of overtime for existing personnel is only a temporary fix.
  • Although the crime rates have grown proportionately with the increase in population, the report states that citizens’ fear of crime has increased in the region.  

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