North Dakota crime rate steady over past 15 years


By Rob Port | North Dakota Bureau

STEADY: While North Dakota has seen a rise in its crime index rate in recent years, over the last fifteen years the crime rate is down.

BISMARCK, N.D. — In recent years crime in North Dakota is up, but over the past 15 years the state’s crime rate has remained remarkably steady despite an oil boom and rapidly shifting demographics.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office released its annual crime report Tuesday detailing a 2 percent increase in the state’s index crime rate, from 2,125 crimes per 100,000 population in 2012 to 2,168 in 2013. Since 2010, the crime rate has increased more than 17 percent.

But the state’s crime rate is actually down nearly 10 percent from a peak of 2,403 crimes per 100,000 population in 2002, and down nearly 6 percent over the last 15 years. That’s despite a rapidly growing population and an oil boom that has brought legions of oil industry workers to the state, at times overrunning law enforcement, housing and infrastructure in some of the state’s communities.

Since a low point in 2002, the state’s population has increased over 13 percent to a new all-time high of 723,393 in 2013 according to the U.S. Census.

The state is also getting younger according to Census data. From 2012 to 2013, the median age in North Dakota dropped from 35.881 to 35.270, and it has dropped from more than 37 years since 2010. Of the top 25 counties nationally with the largest drop in the median age from 2012 to 2013, 12 are in North Dakota.

This shift in age demographics may be contributing to the state’s rise in crime. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics finds a strong correlation between age and arrests. Americans in their late teens and early-20′s are the most likely to be arrested, seeing nearly 13,000 arrests per 100,000 persons, but that arrest rate drops off quickly with age. By the mid-20’s, arrests drop to about 9,000 per 100,000 persons and by the mid-30’s arrests are under 6,000 per 100,000 citizens.

Even with recent increases in crime, North Dakota has enjoyed some of the lowest levels in the nation. In 2012, the latest year for which the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database has information, North Dakota had the ninth lowest crime index rate in the nation.

Still, there are some areas of concern. The state also tracks significant categories of crime that aren’t included in the report, among these arrests for driving under the influence and drug offenses.

In 2013, North Dakota saw a 3.2 percent decline in DUI arrests, from 7,322 in 2012 to 7,086 in 2013. Drug arrests spiked, however, seeing 19.5 percent increase from 2,872 in 2012 to 3,431 in 2013.

Crime index offenses include murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes such as burglary, theft, shoplifting and motor vehicle theft. The annual crime report is compiled from data provided by law enforcement agencies across North Dakota.