Posted 7/10/13 (Wed)
By Olivia Sundeen
The need for increased law enforcement help in western North Dakota is finally being recognized.
The increase in population has inevitably led to a rise in crime. Slowly, but surely, counties including McKenzie County have increased law enforcement numbers. Yet, there are still many problems that need to be addressed.
In order for this to happen, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has been working with the North Dakota Legislature to set up funding to meet the law enforcement’s critical needs.
“We want to make sure this is funding that makes a difference,” stated Stenehjem.
Recently, the Legislature appropriated roughly $9.6 million in criminal justice grants to the Attorney General’s office. Law enforcement officials will be able to send in applications requesting any needs up to July 26. By the beginning of September, a meeting process will be held to establish priority before they begin dishing out money.
“This is a good chunk of money,” stated Stenehjem. “We will review the applications and see how far the money goes.”
The criminal justice grant money will go toward equipment, renovations of jails, training personnel, rent and housing for new deputies, etc.
For counties that need grant money sooner rather than later to meet their critical needs, the Legislature also appropriated $7 million for county sheriffs in oil-impacted counties.
“If you have an officer on staff without equipment,” stated Stenehjem, “or you need to hire one immediately to meet your needs, that is what this immediate relief grant is for.”
Stenehjem encouraged all county sheriffs affected by the oil boom to get together and figure out what can be done collectively to decrease criminal activity.
“What can we do on a regional basis?” asked Stenehjem. “Not just a county basis.”
McKenzie County State’s Attorney Dennis Johnson is hopeful that some of the grant money will come to McKenzie County and Watford City. He believes both are, without a doubt, the most severely impacted areas in the state.
“The crime rate here along with the accidents causing injury and death have clearly risen with the level of oil activity in the county,” stated Johnson. “Law enforcement desperately needs this help. Making our community safe comes at a high price.”
This funding will, hopefully, be the investment that law enforcement officials need to help crime statistics go down. With a shortage of equipment and personnel, and jails filling up, it is hard for law enforcement officials to keep the community safe without funding. It is Stenehjem’s hope that these grants will help.
“I am so happy with what is going on in oil-impacted counties for the most part,” stated Stenehjem. “Our grandparents have dealt with times of struggle, so I know we are more than able to handle prosperity.”