There are so many positive things the Bakken oil development has created in western North Dakota.
The Dickinson Press has been filled with stories of people finding a new start in life. Unprecedented wealth has filled the tax coffers of state government. New stores and restaurants once only located in larger cities have been built and are operating in western North Dakota.
Say what you will about the oil play, but for those who are willing to work hard, there have been unheard of opportunities.
That said, the oil development has certainly created challenges, such as a higher cost of living, increased traffic, a lack of affordable housing and employee shortages and empty store shelves. Still, most reasonable folks who live here have to admit things have slowly gotten better.
However, the one byproduct of the oil boom that has not improved is the crime rate, which has increased in recent years.
Human trafficking, assaults, burglaries, domestic violence and even murder paint the pages of The Press. Most of those crimes can be tied to the increase of drug use — meth, in particular — in western North Dakota, and sadly there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Over a two day-period in February, 11 pounds of meth was seized in what law enforcement described as the largest drug bust in North Dakota history. The street value of the drugs was more than a half-million dollars, and an immeasurable amount of misery.
Meth is one of the most dangerous and potent drugs. It’s a poison that first acts as a stimulant but then begins to systematically destroy the body. It is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage. Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources, creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug. The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, meth begins to destroy the user’s life.
Meth addicts usually end up dead or jail.
Meth is a nearly impossible addiction to kick, even when treatment is available. Even more troubling is that there are nowhere near enough private or public services in North Dakota for what is needed.
Local law enforcement, courts and social services — despite their best efforts — are too understaffed and underfunded to combat the tenfold increase in meth activity in recent years.
The North Dakota Legislature needs to seriously address the needs of local agencies to combat what can only be described as an epidemic.
The Dickinson Press Editorial Board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and News Editor April Baumgarten.