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Report: Overall crime up in North Dakota; biggest spikes in oil field counties

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North Dakota's attorney general said he will request an increase in funding and personnel to take on rising crime, following the release of the state's annual crime report Tuesday, Forum News Service reports.

Wayne Stenehjem detailed state statistics in a press release and at a news conference at the Capitol building in Bismarck, and broke down numbers for crimes in the state's booming oil field counties.

According to FNS, Stenehjem has requested $20 million for oil impact grants for law enforcement agencies for 2015-2017, up from $16.6 million lawmakers grants for 2013-15. In addition, Stenehjem is seeking two additional Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents to be stationed in Williston to tackle the increase in human trafficking and prostitution; and additional BCI agents for Williston, Watford City and Dickinson.

Stenehjem said in the 2013 report the state's oil-producing counties saw 23 percent spike in aggravated assaults from 2012, while aggravated assaults were up 7.9 percent statewide.

In the North Dakota oil patch, Stenehjem said Tuesday there were 346 aggravated assaults in those counties in 2013, up from 282 in 2012, the Bismarck Tribune reports. For the remainder of the state, there were 810 aggravated assaults last year, up from 789 in 2012.

The Tribune says those "oil patch" counties in North Dakota are Billings, Burke, Divide, Dunn, Golden Valley, McKenzie, McLean, Mercer, Mountrail, Stark, Ward and Williams.

Stenehjem stressed his biggest area of concern remains the rise in drug offenses, up 19.5 percent from 2012. According to the Tribune, Stenehjem said at Tuesday's press conference he's alarmed by the increase in methamphetamine cases.

"They're increasingly complex (cases). Meth is not coming in by the gram or ounce anymore … but by the pound," Stenehjem said.

Stenehjem said drug arrests in the oil patch counties jumped from 581 in 2012 to 813 in last year. The increase in drug arrests for the rest of North Dakota jumped 2,291 in 2012 to 2,618 in 2013.

While Stenehjem said the number of violent crimes – including murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – increased by 7.4 percent across North Dakota in 2013, there was a drop in specific categories.

“This year’s report includes some positive news as well as some areas of great concern.

On the positive side, reports show a reduction in the number of rape cases which dropped over 2 percent," Stenehjem said in a press release. "And for the first time in several years, the number of cases of driving under the influence has shown a significant reduction. The number of homicides in the state likewise went down, from 20 in 2012 to 14 in 2013."

According to the attorney general's report, North Dakota's violent crime rate has more than double since 2004, from 91.9 offenses per 100,000 people in 2004 to 215.4 offenses per 100,000 people last year.

Still, Stenehjem noted, since violent offenses accounted for less than 10 percent of the overall index offenses – and property crimes accounted for 90.1 percent – he considers North Dakota one of the safest states in the nation.

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