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Crime on the rise in Minot after floodwaters recede

Property crime is on the rise in Minot and flooding is partly to blame, according to Police Chief Jeff Balentine. Many neighborhoods that had been flooded remain largely uninhabited, he said, which means there aren't many residents keeping a watc...

Oak Park neighborhood in Minot
A man and boy look at the Souris River flood waters in the Minot, N.D., neighborhood of Oak Park Saturday, June 25, 2011. The Souris River neared its crest Saturday in Minot, where city officials hoped to ride out the high water without losing more than the thousands of homes already damaged by flooding.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Property crime is on the rise in Minot and flooding is partly to blame, according to Police Chief Jeff Balentine.

Many neighborhoods that had been flooded remain largely uninhabited, he said, which means there aren't many residents keeping a watchful eye on the streets at night.

It's also possible, he said, that some of the workers brought in to assist in the cleanup and workers from the nearby oil fields have taken advantage of the lack of vigilance.

What is clear are the numbers.

For the first seven months of the year, the number of burglary complaints increased from 15 in 2010 to 32 in 2011, according to Balentine. The number of auto thefts increased from 24 to 50. The number of calls for service went up from 3,511 to 4,671.

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Grand Forks saw a similar spike in crime after the 1997 flood, though Lt. Jim Remer said he's reluctant to make any comparison with Minot. The two floods are different, he said, and most of Grand Forks was evacuated for three months.

In Minot, the city evacuated just the river valley, not the surrounding hills, and only for about three weeks.

Still, between the beginning of July and the end of December in 1997, the number of burglaries increased to 129 compared with 111 in the same period in 1996. The number of auto thefts is not available because of changes in the computer system used to keep statistics.

Grand Forks police had the same problem then as Minot police have now: Empty neighborhoods that require extra patrolling.

Chief Balentine said there aren't enough police officers and Border Patrol agents assisting them to be on patrol everywhere, though he said he's changed shifts so more beat officers are out at night when crime occurs.

In the daytime, when crime is reported by the victims, he's having detectives and administrative staff file reports, he said.

Even he and his captains are pitching in to free up the beat officers. He said they're manning the checkpoints at Minot International Airport.

Besides property crimes, Minot's also seen an increase in the severity of domestic incidents though the number, 88, remains the same as last year, according to Balentine. Grand Forks saw an increase in domestic incidents from July to December in 1997 with 259 reported compared to 244 in the same period in 2006.

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Balentine said a lot of flood evacuees are living in close quarters and the weather's been hot and humid, which could raise tempers.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send email to ttran@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: 2011 FLOOD
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