The New Wild West

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota

Mike Riggs examines how North Dakota’s Bakken region – home of America’s fastest-growing regional economy – is struggling to police itself:

In 2005, the Williston Police Department in Williston, North Dakota, received 3,796 calls for service. By 2009, the number of yearly calls had almost doubled, to 6,089. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, the Williston P.D. received 15,954 calls for service. … And Williston hasn’t even seen the worst of it. The police department in nearby Watford City received 41 service calls in 2006. In 2011 they received 3,938. That’s life in an energy boomtown.

“Policing the Patch, a new study issued by the Department of Criminal Justice & Political Science at North Dakota State University, sheds new light on the problems faced in these boomtowns. Between October 2012 and March 2013, professor Carol A. Archbold and her team interviewed 101 law enforcement officers from eight agencies about how the in-migration of oil workers to the Bakken region has changed the way they do their jobs. The team’s findings tell us a lot about the problems created when cities and towns grow at an explosive rate.

(Photo: Inmates sit in the county jail on July 26, 2013 in Williston, North Dakota. The state has seen a rise in crime, automobile accidents and drug usage recently, due in part to the oil boom which has brought tens of thousands of jobs to the region, lowering state unemployment and bringing a surplus to the state budget. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images)