State Sen. Ryan Taylor, Democratic candidate for North Dakota governor, proposed a plan Monday to put 143 more law officers and support personnel to work in fighting crime in the state.
The number of law enforcement officials hasn't kept up with the population or the crime rate, Taylor said at a news conference in Minot. From 2009 to 2011, North Dakota's population went up 5.7 percent, but law enforcement personnel went up only 1.7 percent. The number of violent crimes went up 21 percent, and the value of property losses rose 38.5 percent.
"The easy way to look at it is the crimes went up three times faster than the number of crime fighters," Taylor said. "The number of arrests went up only 1.1 percent. We can see that our hard-working officers and others are stretched to the max. They have been over-burdened, and leaders have failed to keep North Dakotans as safe as they were just three short years ago."
State Sen. Ryan Taylor, right, visits with Bud Halverson following a news conference in Minot Public Library Monday.
Taylor noted the statistics are incomplete because some communities, including oil-impacted Tioga, Killdeer and Stanley, and the counties of Dunn, Divide and Bowman, were too busy to make their reports.
"The numbers are unacceptable and we can't expect the hard-working members of law enforcement in these communities to change them if we don't provide them with the resources they need to get the criminals off the streets," he said.
His plan would increase law enforcement personnel to the per capita level of 1.95 per 1,000 residents that existed in 2009. That would mean about another 143 employees, he said.
He supported the State Bar Association's Energy Impact Task Force recommendations for two more judgeships in the Northwest Judicial District, where felonies are up 53 percent. He also supports more funding for the state crime laboratory, courthouse security and legal personnel as needed.
Taylor estimated the cost of his plan at $14 million, which would come from the state's budget surplus. He also wants to change the oil tax distribution formula to raise the percentage going to counties, cities and schools from 11 percent to 40 percent to ensure long-term funding.
Cities on the periphery of oil activity, such as Minot, could get assistance through oil impact grants, he said. These monies would supply cities and counties with money for more officers, higher pay or to address housing to attract staff, he said.
"Providing safety is a basic role of government," Taylor said. "While one might expect a rise in crime with a rise in population, it's not expected that a state government with a $2 billion surplus will sit idly by and watch while the problem escalates. It's even more incomprehensible that we have a governor who has called for a hold even, or zero increase, budget for all of our state's departments, including those departments that have jurisdiction over the Highway Patrol, the judgeship, the agencies that support the crime-fighting efforts of our cities and counties. We need a leader in Bismarck who recognizes when there is a problem and does something to address it."
"The simple truth is that Governor Dalrymple has been a leader in recognizing the need for enhanced law enforcement support," Amanda Godfread, Dalrymple's campaign communications director, said in response to Taylor's remarks. "He has already taken important steps like sending 13 additional Highway Patrol troopers to western North Dakota last November and directing unprecedented funding for other law enforcement and emergency services needs. In addition, western counties and cities have received substantially more resources in the last few years through the State Aid Distribution Formula, empowering local entities to address their specific demands."
Godfread added that, as indicated by the state attorney general this summer, the overall crime rate remains relatively unchanged and is still one of the lowest in the nation.