North Dakota Officials Remark That Crime Rate Increase Is Possibly Tied To Opioid Epidemic

Between the years of 2006 and 2016, North Dakota had some of the most drastic rises of violent and property crime in the country, according to a report from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, cites the Grand Forks Herald. Many authorities and officials are now saying there may be a strong correlation between increased opioid use and this spike in violent and property crime.

Violent crimes have in fact nearly doubled between the above years in North Dakota. There were approximately 251 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in the year 2016 alone. According to that report, aggravated assaults and robberies more than doubled in the state. The increase in North Dakota is the second largest in the United States. Even though this is the second largest increase, North Dakota does still remain 35 percent below the national average for violent crime. Property crime saw a 15 percent increase in North Dakota, though the overall rate was lower than half the United States. Motor-vehicle theft increased 63 percent and burglaries rose 14 percent.

Grand Forks County State’s Attorney David Jones spoke with reporters at the Grand Forks Herald, remarking on the drug issues and this possible link to a rise in crimes.

“There’s probably a myriad of reasons for it. I think a good part of it is that we’ve just had an increase in the drug side of the world. If you go back and trace the homicides, the attempted murders, the aggravated assaults over the past number of years, a great many of them are attributed back to drug issues that have arisen.”

Further evidence to back up these claims from officials such as Jones is the reported use of opioids. The use of opioids has drastically increased during the last 10 years. The year 2010 saw an average of about 3.4 deaths per 100,000 people in the state of North Dakota. These deaths were specifically drug related. By 2016, the average number had risen to 10.6 drug related deaths.

Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel also spoke out on the matter, stating that although impossible to attribute the increase in crime to one specific factor, the increase could be partially tied to what various officials and the general public are calling an opioid epidemic. Zimmel also stated that drug use is cyclical, which can be seen throughout history in reports that show spikes and dips. One particular opioid which Zimmel says is especially troubling in this opioid epidemic is fentanyl.

“It’s not a problem we can arrest our way out of. And that’s why we have been working so hard to connect with the community and talk about the issue.”

Jones also discussed how the increased drug abuse has impacted the child welfare system drastically, stating that the number of children in the foster system now because their parents are struggling with addiction is higher than he’s seen it in over 25 years.

“We know that those numbers have gone up a great deal over the last five years. When you look at those numbers, they’re almost all triggered back to drugs and alcohol. In particular now, with the drugs coming through, you’ve just got parents that are no longer capable of taking care of their kids, so that cycle starts.”

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