Solution Proposal Final Paper Tj

Crime in the Bakken Oil Fields

The oil boom in North Dakota has brought in a significant amount of wealth in a very short period of time, causing different types of people to flood into North Dakota. However, not all the people relocating to North Dakota are looking to make honest money, rather they are trying to make money anyway they can.

Combine wealth, gender disparities, male workers dislocated from their families, and a rural area whose local police department is ill prepared for “big city” crimes, and this is the perfect recipe for disaster. This paper will outline the complexity of this primary issue as well as the secondary issues that perpetuate this growing problem.

There are many ways people are trying to make money in North Dakota, including but not limited to, production and trafficking of illegal street drugs, petty crimes, and even human trafficking. The latter happens to be one of the biggest problems going on in the oil fields of North Dakota.

The number of children at risk of becoming victims is based on several risk factors that increase ones vulnerability to traffickers. These factors include transient youth, youth who perform sexual services for their peers, female members of youth gangs, and juveniles living in or near U.S. border cities. The average age a child first becomes a victim is between 13 and 14 years old, however that age is starting to decrease due to the exploiters fears of the victims having HIV or AIDS (Barnitz; Friedman; Spangenberg).

Sex trafficking is not just a human rights issue, but it is also an economic and environmental issue. The larger social implications of sex trafficking place significant burdens on the community and its already limited resources. Oftentimes traffickers will force victims to use drugs. This sometimes leads to unplanned pregnancies; which causes the need for reproductive services and expensive health care services to increase. These secondary issues create a higher need for government assistance, need expensive health care, and social services that are already at case loads beyond their capacity. These secondary issues become their own primary issues, leading to a vicious cycle that is not sustainable from an economical standpoint.

Violent crime rates have significantly increased in Williston and nearby Watford City since 2008. The number of rapes in Williston/year is three times higher than the national average. Compared to the U.S. average of 30 rapes/100,000 people from 2008-2012, Williston had an average of 91 rapes/100,000 during that same time period. Between 2000-2007, an average of 49 rapes/100,000 occurred in Williston compared to the national average of 31 rapes/100,000 people. Between 2000-2007 an average of 62 non-sexual assaults/100,000 people were reported in Williston, compared to the national average of 300 non-sexual assaults/100,000 people. Even with this significant increase in violent crimes, the number of full-time police officers in Williston has only increased from 21 to 32 between 2003 and 2012. As of April 2015, there are 19 registered sex offenders living in Williston, North Dakota (City-Data).

In Watford City, a small town just outside of Williston, there were 53 rapes per 100,000 people in both 2011 and 2012 compared to zero rapes/100,000 people reported between 2002 and 2010. There was an average of 64 non-sexual assaults/100,000 people reported between 2002-2009, and per 100,000 people, in 2010 there were 138 non-sexual assaults reported, in 2011 that number jumped to 338, and in 2012 it nearly doubled to 661 non-sexual assaults/100,000 people. In 2003 there were only 4 full-time police officers and as of 2012 there are only 10 full-time police officers in Watford City (City-Data). While 2012 is the most recent data reported according to this website, this provides an example of how much crime has increased in the cities affected by the oil boom compared to the years before the boom and compared to the national average.

If we want to maintain order, safety, and sustainability in the Bakken region, there needs to be a considerable amount of attention drawn to this issue. There needs to be a plan in place to combat sex trafficking and assist law enforcement in their efforts to police the overall crime. Western North Dakota, especially Williston, cannot continue to function in a state of crisis or they will soon be facing a bust rather than scrambling to accommodate the boom. One primary explanation for this problem is lack of preparation for the oil boom, and denial that such heinous crimes like sex trafficking could be happening in what was, until recently, a small close-knit community.

The oil in Williston isn’t newly discovered, in fact, it was discovered in the early 1950’s. However, it has been inaccessible due to being trapped between two layers of shale rock, two miles below the surface until the more recent development of hydraulic fracturing technology (American Oil and Gas Historical Society). In 2008, it was decided that hydraulic fracturing, was worth the risk and Williston transformed into a “big city” almost overnight. There are other theories about possible causes, and one of those theories suggests that Williston isn’t actually experiencing an increase in sex trafficking at all. Some argue that the language we use to discuss sex work is evolving; therefore more people fall under the category of victim whereas previously they were criminalized.

One possible solution to this issue is to educate the community on the legal definition and signs of human trafficking, and focus on rehabilitation rather than criminalization. This would help with clearing up the misconceptions about human trafficking, and provide community members with a protocol for looking out for each other –especially the children. Many people still consider sex trafficking to be prostitution and they assume that the sex workers they see are participating in a lifestyle they have chosen for themselves or somehow deserve. On the surface, society assumes that people who work in the sex industry have either chosen to do so, or have fallen into that life as a result of poor choices. Even if someone “chooses” to make money by having sex with strangers, it’s not because they want to, it’s because they don’t feel like they have any other choice. Circumstances force people into poverty, and there are many cases where women have “chosen” the sex-work industry because it is a way to make money fast and they have families to feed. As much as society likes to believe that everyone starts on a level playing field, this is far from the reality.

Some people also look the other way and are afraid of becoming involved in something that is not their business, or don’t even know what to do so it’s easier to “not see it”. While this is understandable to a certain extent, it is important to let people know there are things they can do to intervene without putting their own safety at risk. Sometimes a simple phone call to the 24 hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888) 373-7888 can make a world of difference. There have been cases where truck drivers who had recent training on this issue and had been told to save this number in their phones witnessed young girls in truck stop parking lots and called the number which led to the rescue of these victims and provided law enforcement with a tip that led to busting a major trafficking ring in Williston (Polaris).

The next step to this solution would be to arm community members with resources and a protocol for reporting possible victims of sex trafficking. For the victim, they need to feel safe and supported rather than stigmatized and criminalized. Some say that tougher enforcement of anti-prostitution laws, drug use, and other related crimes would restore order in this community. Tougher enforcement only forces the victims further underground because they are afraid of law enforcement or incarceration. Time and money are also issues with this proposed solution. Stricter enforcement of laws would require increasing law enforcement, and it can take years to effect policy change.

Another more long-term solution would be to put some of the money coming in because of the boom to better use. Organizations in Williston could offer student loan forgiveness to current Social Work and Criminal Justice students, and implement programs to attract mental health professionals in Williston. Theoretically, this could significantly reduce crime and give the residents of Williston hope for restoring their community. From the data reported on crime rates and number of police officers, there aren’t nearly enough police officers employed to accommodate the drastic increase in crime. Implementing a program that would allow free education in exchange for working in law enforcement in Williston would be a good start with crime reduction. Furthermore, implementing education incentives for Social Workers would reduce the strain on existing resources that are extremely limited, and provide services for those affected by these violent crimes. Presumably, when violent crime rates increase, the number of victims increases correspondingly.

Previous studies have established a pattern of inadequate community services, housing, and goods when a population grows at “boom rates”, and funding gets used for reactive programming rather than proactive programming (Jacquet; Archbold). Williston is no exception to this finding, and if anything is going to change for the better, the community needs to be aware that they are experiencing a crisis; they need to be educated on the resources available for sex trafficking victims. For the individuals trapped in the vicious cycle of sex trafficking, they need to be reassured that they won’t be treated like criminals, and their safety is the number one priority.

Along with increasing law enforcement employees and resources for victims of violent crimes, there are smaller steps that can and need to be taken also. Raising awareness by hosting a movie screening on the documentaries that have been done is one of the ways students can help shed light on this issue. Anyone can volunteer at crisis shelters with minimal training, but people don’t think of it if they aren’t aware that there is a problem. Finally, high school and college students can use assignments they will need to do anyway as an opportunity to raise awareness by contributing to research, giving presentations, and giving speeches on this issue.

Finally, it is important to let others know that this is a problem, and provide resources for victims and witnesses to these crimes by giving out the 24 hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888) 373-7888 when students give presentations, speeches, or write papers on this issue because the likelihood of someone needing it at some point is unfortunately increasing.

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