Crime in North Dakota is up. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem released the 2017 crime statistics this morning.
Overall crime is up but only by less than half a percent. Some offenses are up, some down. Let's take a look.
Aggravated Assaults, something that has continued to see a sharp increase over the years, went up over 7 percent. But according to Attorney General Stenehjem, it seems to be plateauing for the most part. Burglary is down over 12 percent. We saw 2,600 cases in 2017. Murder is down as well. 12 in 2017 compared to 18 in 2016.
But the one thing that was hit home - the increase of drugs in North Dakota. Attorney General Stenehjem says it has a ripple effect in many other crimes we're seeing across the state.
"I know from talking to the folks in our task forces, local law enforcement, that a lot of the drug activity drives the burglaries and the robberies and the other kinds of offenses that we're seeing," said Stenehjem.
And he says the number one drug of choice for North Dakotans is marijuana. But thinks that the problem won't be solved with the legalization of medical and the possibility of recreational being added to the November ballot.
Stenehjem added, "I think it might just shift the law enforcement issues from one place to another. And I have said for a long time that I don't think if marijuana is legalized in North Dakota we will be healthier or safer."
He gives a lot of credit to law enforcement - saying they're working harder to crack down on the presence of drugs. It's a resource he wants to protect in the midst of cuts to budgets across all state agencies.
"As we look to at the budget crisis that we have here in North Dakota, one of the areas where I think we cannot cut back is in the area of public safety. And so, I will be pressing the legislature to make sure that we can continue to have our hard-working agents here in BCI," said Stenehjem.
And for those who think North Dakota is on the upswing with crime - Attorney General Stenehjem says otherwise.
He said, "Bottom line is that North Dakota will continue to be one of the safest states in the country."
Driving under the influence arrests also increased three and a half throughout the state. However, with many police efforts focusing on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016 and early 2017 Attorney General Stenehjem says those numbers may slightly be skewed.