By Melissa Gonzalez
As residents of North Dakota, many have felt the increase in population: congested roads, longer commutes, rent hikes and housing crunches. But the main change residents have seemed to notice, and are concerned about, is the perceived increase in crime.
Not only has the population increased but so are the crime rates. These numbers however are available for the city of Bismarck. Officer Kent Kaylor, crime analyst, compared the reported crimes from January to July 2011 to this year’s reported crimes (see chart to the right).
These numbers show such an increase, but ND has ranked top ten in a couple different rankings. Dailyfinance.com ranked ND number three in the country for being the safest state in these six different categories at the end of 2011; murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft.
North Dakota was ranked fifth as Safest States in the United States: Institute for Economy and Peace according to huffingtonpost.com as of July 30, 2012.
After showing both the reported crime rate and rankings to a few residents in Bismarck, they did not seem surprised at all.
Tricia Clarke, a resident in Bismarck, claims to have always felt the same about her safety here. She has always taken precaution on everything she does from locking her car to watching where she goes late at night and with whom. “I have heard a lot of stories lately, especially about how everyone is blaming the oil workers and I don’t think it’s completely accurate. It is almost like we finally have someone to point our fingers at because they’re unfamiliar in this conservative city. Who did we blame the year before the oil workers came? I could say it but I’m not because that is a whole different topic but back on topic, crime is everywhere so being ranked as one of the safest places is a good thing, being a girl and all. I will admit that seeing how this year’s assaults and rapes are higher than last year scares me a bit but I’m going to have to be that much more aware of my surroundings.”
Local resident Colin Mattieson says, with a distorted look, he doesn’t really notice it. “Do I feel less or more safe as of lately in Bismarck? About the same.” He says he recognizes the crime rates may be up though, “I’ve heard things here and there but I guess it really doesn’t faze me. I’m a grown man so seeing the numbers from assaults and what not, isn’t going to affect me as much as it would for a girl. I just know that I am going to have to watch out for my girls when we are out.”
As a girl, Michelle Fettig says she is very scared. “For sure I feel less safe than a year ago! We’ve installed a security system in our home because of all the crime. I don’t go to any stores alone anymore, there are so many out of state license plates that I feel like I am the one that moved!”
Longtime Mandan resident Verna Frohlich describes her state as of late as “on edge.” She said, “I don’t think I’m scared, as much as more aware. I never used to worry about things like walking a couple blocks at night to the neighbors or to the gas station to get milk. Now I still go, but it’s pretty quickly. I don’t dilly dally and I take my cell phone with me. I’m not sure if that feeling of being on edge will ever go away. Every time I see a truck with a couple guys in it, I don’t wanna go anywhere near them. They may be perfectly nice men. I’m not takin’ any chances.”
For nonresidents, North Dakota is known for job opportunities, cold winters, and a very slow lifestyle, which turned off three men working in the oil fields who came from the West coast asking to remain anonymous. They all seem to complain there is not much to do compared to their hometown. They are oblivious to the fact that there are any crimes out here because of how they view the community/cities.
The opinions and outlooks from residential and non-residential are completely different. From the outside, North Dakota seems like that perfect little state portrayed in movies of allowing the kids to roam the streets carefree when in fact it is becoming the opposite for residents that have lived here over five years.
Whether you feel as though it is safe in Bismarck or anywhere in North Dakota, here are some safety tips anyone, anywhere can follow from www.safetyforwomen.com:
- If you see or sense problems on your way, change your route
- Most “fights” are won before they start, and aggressors will back down if you maintain eye contact and are not intimidated by them.
- Danger areas are stepping out of your car either at home or in isolated areas, and also walking to your car. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Always have your keys ready.
- Windows should be up and doors locked even when driving to avoid unwanted contact at intersections.
- Always check your car before entering. Make sure no one is in your back seat.
- Never leave your car or house unlocked, even for the few minutes.
- Never get into a car even if someone is pointing a knife or a handgun at you. They are less likely to kill you in public than if they get you somewhere alone.
- Never pull your car over from a quiet road even if someone drives alongside your car pointing at the tyres etc. Always continue driving to a well-lit and crowded area before exiting your car. The problem might be a bluff.