The above screen capture is a representation of how our local news has changed with regard to crime in the area. Sad, isn’t it? I used to comment on the possibility of this as North Dakota, and Bismarck-Mandan specifically, began to experience growth at an increasing pace. I predicted, “We’re going to be bringing in all kinds of population to staff these fancy new businesses we’ve tried so hard to attract. Not all of them will be nice people; that’s a fact of life.” That has turned out to be the case.
So, what do we do about this? We’re not used to seeing stranglings, attempted murders, human trafficking, and high-dollar larceny in our daily headlines, but they’re regular features now. To put a fine but politically incorrect point on it: many of these folks aren’t your typical upper-Midwest German, Norwegian, or Native American if you know what I mean. I’m not talking about their race, I’m talking about their background. So why not make that part of the story?
I propose that when John Doe gets busted for keeping his 8 year old girl in a dog kennel or chasing soccer players around the park with a machete, that the news report indicate how long they have lived in North Dakota and where they came from if possible. This could be useful information for law enforcement to gather for use in tracking crime statistics, and those findings could be made available to the media along with the crime reports. Help us keep some perspective here.
Chances are pretty good that these people are not North Dakotans per se; they have either recently arrived or have been transplanted to North Dakota from some other place where their behavior is normal. Here it is not. If it’s a North Dakota native who has made the headlines, then they’ll stand out from the rest of us by joining such ranks.
So, instead of saying that “Bismarck man accused of assault with 2×4 lumber”, how about this: “Former Reno resident accused of assault with 2×4”. One could point out that the man currently lives in Bismarck and has been here for six months. I think it would be healthy for North Dakotans and law-abiding “new arrivals” to perceive that North Dakotans are people who live up to their reputation of being good neighbors, that the malcontents are typically not from around here and are bringing their violence and lack of character with them from elsewhere.
I know, this probably reads as completely xenophobic. I’m not looking to brand everyone who comes here from out of state as a violent miscreant. What I’m seeking is some much-needed clarity in our apparent surge in crime and misdeeds in North Dakota. Doing so won’t necessarily vilify non-native North Dakotans, but it will help those of us who obey the law (including those who have recently arrived here) a sense of perspective about our home state and our culture.
I’m not suggesting that the focus of the story should become where a suspect comes from or how long they’ve lived in North Dakota. I’m not advocating for any finger-pointing or sensationalism. Just a mention of where the person came from would be prudent and provide some perspective to the crime report(s).
Wouldn’t it be comforting to families recently relocated to North Dakota to know that they haven’t moved to the Wild West, that most North Dakotans are basically good people? I think they’d find that reassuring. I think it would also encourage them to embrace North Dakota culture rather than assume this sort of thing is normal, as it may be where they came from.
I don’t want North Dakota to slip into a mode of acceptance of all this garbage. Crime needs to be stigmatized. Criminals need to be called to account. North Dakotans need statistics to show that we’re not devolving, and new arrivals need to know that they’re arriving in a state and culture where crime is not accepted and taken for granted. This would help us preserve that North Dakota way of life we treasure so dearly.