HI Reddit - I won't be answering any more questions in this AMA - THANKS for all your comments and insight! I enjoyed reading all of your comments! I plan on doing another one of these AMA in the near future (although with a different topic). Thanks again for your participation! Rick

Hi Reddit! I’m Rick Ruddell, Professor of Justice Studies at the University of Regina (Canada). http://www.uregina.ca/arts/justice-studies/faculty-staff/faculty/ruddell-rick.html

I am a criminologist who studies how justice systems operate and the co-author of Making Sense of Criminal Justice http://www.amazon.ca/Making-Sense-Criminal-Justice-Practices/dp/0199314136/ref=dp_ob_title_bk and Do the Crime, Do the Time: Juvenile Criminals and Adult Justice in the American Court System http://www.amazon.ca/Do-Crime-Time-Juvenile-Criminals/dp/0313392420/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433730383&sr=1-1&keywords=ruddell+mays+do+the+crime

My academic research focuses on policing, corrections and juvenile justice. Many of the issues I study are related to challenges I experienced working in correctional facilities. Prior to my career in the Ivory Tower I was a supervisor and manager in four different adult and youth facilities. I was also the Director of Operational Research with the Correctional Service of Canada where we did research on dangerous offenders, gangs, and ensuring safety in correctional facilities.

Over the past ten years I have really been interested in what happens in rural North America. Although a lot of us think that crime in rural areas is not a very big problem, rates of violent crime in some places can be higher than the suburbs or cities. Some crimes occur a lot more often in the countryside – including domestic violence and drunk driving. Some rural crime is unusual–there have been an increasing number of thefts of bees lately… (Who steals bees?)

One of the challenges for rural justice systems is that many counties are poor and the police are stretched thin. As a result, when someone calls the police for help they might not show up for an hour or much longer in bad weather. Are the police always the answer? Some isolated Canadian communities are pretty effective at regulating the behavior of their residents and the police might only visit them a few times a year.

In the past five years I have carried out a number of studies of resource-based boom towns. The oil companies move in and the population increases with young men who have a lot of disposable income. That can lead to trouble in some places. Crime increases and the quality of life decreases. Places affected by increases, such as North Dakota, have been called the “New Wild West” (http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/10/inside-north-dakotas-crazy-oil-boom)] by the media.

My research, featured in a recent feature story in Pacific Standard Magazine, asks, are those media accounts very accurate?

  • What is the impact a boom on the local justice system?
  • Who is responsible for the crime increase? (Is it always the “outsiders”?)
  • What kind of crimes increase?
  • Are some groups (such as women) at higher risk in boomtowns?
  • What about traffic in boomtowns? (Dangerous driving is a big problem!)
  • How can we reduce crime and disorder in these places?
  • Should the corporations that are profiting from the “boom” also pay a greater share when it comes to the social and environmental costs of the boom?
  • Are media reports very accurate when it comes to reporting boomtown crime?

The purpose of asking all of these questions is that our answers will help us to develop some crime control strategies to reduce the negative impacts of these booms.

I’ll be here from 2 to 4 p.m. ET to answer your questions—I really look forward to chatting with all of you. Ask Me Anything!

Rick's website: http://www.rickruddell.com/

Here is my reddit pic! http://i.imgur.com/9rqlZC3.jpg

Comments: 502 • Responses: 73  • Date: 

Daredizzle267 karma

Hi Dr. Ruddell,

Is there a universal resource that when added to a community, reduces the crime rate? I am aware that there are an infinite number of variables that would affect this. But is there something standard like "adding more parks" to a community that reduces crime every time? Or at least close to it?

rickruddell366 karma

Wow - another tough question! You are correct when you say that there are an infinite number of variables!

Different "fixes" are required for different types of communities. So what works in a small rural community might be ineffective in a city.

What works in a small community for reducing crime? When we can strengthen informal social control (when people do not engage in crime because they don't want to disappoint our friends and family members) rather than involving the police. Almost all of us have done this - think about a time when you told a friend not to drive after they had been drinking.

We build informal social control when we are involved in our communities. That also works, to an extent, in cities - but in cities we are more anonymous and don't care as much what people think of us (or what we are doing).

When it comes to cities -- Targeting specific types of offenders (e.g., gang members) and targeting specific types of crimes (such as felons carrying firearms - which is a crime) also reduces crime.

Economic development (when more people are working) and education levels are higher and housing is better - also seems to have a positive crime reduction benefit in any community.

Having a strong social safety net (e.g., good health, education, and welfare programs) are generally associated with less crime although in Europe (where these programs are very generous) their crime rates are very similar to that of the US. The exception is that in the US murder rates are higher.

Tallest_Waldo229 karma

In summation: When police are your first line of crime deterrence, you're already losing.

rickruddell210 karma

Is always best to rely on informal controls (on ourselves and others) rather than depending on the police or some other outsider. But we also rely on the police as there are some folks who just don't respond to informal controls.

Gnashtaru5 karma

I have always thought it was pretty obvious why crime increases in communities with toughter social situations.

I mean, come on. NOBODY is going to just sit around and starve, or more importantly let their kids starve. ANYBODY, including me, would break any law there is to keep my kids safe, fed, and educated (in general). It's human instinct. It's not rocket science..

That's why I don't understand why people can't understand why higher crime rates happen in poor communities. Duh.

The best solution for crime in a given area? Resources.

Resources as far as living standard. If everyones living standard was above worrying about feeding their kids and surviving, crime would drop 80% EASILY. I say again EASILY.

It's all biology.

We are programmed to survive, and then reproduce. That's all that matters (that's what made us the way we are). If you could eliminate all the things that interfere with survival and kids being taken care of, you would eliminate almost the entirety of crime.

There are no evil people. There are just desperate people acting like they are programmed to act.

Don't even get me STARTED on drugs and alcohol and escapism. LOL

It's all part of the same dramatic play.

rickruddell7 karma

You have some great observations - but how do we explain the crimes of the rich (folks who are doing very well?).

Development and resources can explain some of the variation in crime, but it gets difficult to explain when you have nations with great social safety nets (such as Sweden) - and their crime rate isn't a lot different than the US (that has a very poor social safety net) - although far less murders in Sweden.

bladderwort113 karma

What's the most unusual crime you've seen/studied and what are some of the theories about the who/what/why of that crime?

rickruddell194 karma

I think that one of the most troubling crimes are individuals who kill their entire families. Often these cases involve persons with mental illness and they occur very rarely. But - very tough to understand. If you do an internet search - Kathleen Heide has done a lot of research on this topic and written several books.

Ragnar_Targaryen111 karma

Here's a question that is sort of off topic for you but in the same ballpark.

Do you believe prisoners should have a vote in elections, Federal or individual states?

Some people say that prisoners are humans too, and they should have a say in who operates their living quarters. Others say that prisoners are separated from society for a reason and should not be allowed to vote because they aren't part of society anymore. What say you?

rickruddell189 karma

Wow - that is a tough question! In Canada they allow prison inmates to vote in elections. Voting (for prisoners) is also the norm in many European nations.

In many US states felons (even those living in the community) are not allowed to vote (the formal term is felon disenfranchisement) when they are on parole (and sometimes afterwards).

I have seen arguments both ways and think that if we are going to reform the system we should start in the community and restore the ability to vote for those who have "paid their debt to society." The numbers of disenfranchised persons is fairly large (millions).

testmypatience44 karma

Considering the prison and justice system is very broken I think criminals should be able to vote but I also believe antipandering rules need formed to prevent that crossover.

rickruddell82 karma

I don't think that prisoners voting in Canada has had much of an impact on democracy here. My guess is that very few vote conservative.

Bartweiss26 karma

While I believe you, the per capita incarceration rate here is about 7x that of Canada. Beyond that, we restrict the voting rights of parolees (and some people off parole). I would estimate that >1% of Americans are subject to these laws.

It's not an answer on what should be done, just a note that there are many people affected by this in the US.

rickruddell38 karma

I will have to do a bit of research but 1% of the total population sounds about right (maybe a bit low?) but when it comes to the % of the voting population it would be higher (those over 18 years?).

Not only is the overall number of people significant but a large proportion comes from inner cities (again I don't have any actual statistics in front of me - so am shooting from the hip here....) so there may be areas where the disenfranchised population is very high.

shesallover7 karma

Why would you guess that?

rickruddell58 karma

Conservatives (regardless of what nation they are from) generally support "tough on crime" policies including a greater use of incarceration and longer sentences. My guess is that most imprisoned offenders would rather vote for a political party that supports rehabilitation and/or shorter prison sentences.

bladderwort59 karma

Are there any crimes that we might consider common that hold a great deal of interest for you to study? Why?

rickruddell165 karma

I am sometimes fascinated by "ordinary" crimes (such as theft) of unusual items. There are a growing number of bee thefts for example in rural America/Canada. Who steals bees? We think it is other beekeepers (who else has the equipment?). Because bees are dying off some beekeepers might find it easier to steal other folks bees rather than try to take months to repopulate their bee colonies.

Of course I could be wrong about that......

jookyspooky54 karma

Bees are a commodity like anything else, I remember a few years back about groups of people stealing avocados, so if it has value it'll be stolen. Plus how do you prove those bees are stolen? Bees are necessary for certain crops to grow and their numbers are shrinking so their value goes up. Which leads to theft.

Source: none, just random stuff I read over the years.

rickruddell80 karma

Cattle rustling is also experiencing a comeback (because cows have a high value with rising food prices) and you can round a dozen cows (with the same value as a brand new economy car) in a half hour. Of course you need a truck and trailer so some of these thefts are from other ranchers/farmers.

You are correct when you say that anything that has value can be stolen!

Ithilwen25 karma

Trailer theft is a big problem too. People leave theirs on their property, where they've never had anything stolen before. It seems thieves around here (east Texas) are more willing to explore further from the city these days.

Soo..it's not necessarily other ranchers, but they definitely need to know how to get them sold.

Bandit678942 karma

What? You don't think other ranchers steal trailers, too? Not all thefts in the country are city boys comin to take your stuff.

rickruddell73 karma

The British folks have been doing more research on city folks who commit crimes in the countryside. This is happening more often than we think (they are looking for high dollar items such as agricultural chemicals). Some city criminals are also relocating to the countryside as there are fewer police and it is easier to go unnoticed....(at least by the police).

The British researchers call the city criminals "Urban Marauders" (which has a cool sound - but I am not sure how many of these folks there actually are.....).

Dog-boy32 karma

In my area, city folk sometimes come and set up grow ops. They don't realize that in small towns everyone is watching you. They go to the hardware store and buy sheeting and tubing and fertilizer, etc. It becomes a topic of conversation at the local diner and the police hear about it. The police give the people enough time to set up and then go in and arrest them. One group set theirs up on a street where 3 OPP officers lived. Local grow ops have a distinct advantage.

rickruddell26 karma

Marijuana is a cash crop in many small towns and throughout rural Canada (rural folks supplement their income) - In Ontario a lot of marijuana growers just plant their seeds in regular crops - here is a bit from a CBC story on the problem:

While some country people, like their city counterparts, grow marijuana for their personal use a number of farmers and ranchers supplement their incomes with drug sales. Other farmers are unaware that marijuana is planted in their fields. The CBC (2013, Apr. 10) reported the observations of an Ontario soybean grower: “‘Corn grows six or seven feet tall so it hides the marijuana plant pretty good.’ Guilbeault said, ‘Typically what they’ll do is they’ll go into the field about a hundred feet or so and take out a row of corn, transplant their [marijuana] plants in there and it just gets hidden in between two corn rows and they’re good to go until harvest.’”

Cmdr_McBragg13 karma

teeny tiny branding irons

rickruddell50 karma

Not branding irons - but a sheep farmer in England was so mad at people stealing his livestock that he painted all of his sheep a bright orange. Discouraged others from taking the sheep....

rickruddell48 karma


beeblez46 karma

Hi Doctor Rick!

With the recent drop in the price of oil, what trends should we expect to see in a lot of Alberta communities that have the transient workforce like you've described?

Related, given the number of workers in Alberta who have immigrated to Alberta from other corners of Canada (or the world) is there any reason to expect a ripple effect in other Canadian communities?

rickruddell44 karma

The recent drop in the price of oil has reduced the size of the transient workforce throughout Northern Alberta and that should reduce the crime rates (a bit) and injuries from traffic collisions.

The impact on North Dakota has been less dramatic as it is less expensive to drill for oil in the Bakken formation, so it is still profitable. But - I have been chatting with friends in ND over the past few weeks and they tell me that there has been a slow down and that you can actually get a hotel room in some boom counties.

One of the aspects of the oil industry is that there is a history of booms and busts and recoveries and that boom towns have to prepare for the busts...

rykh717 karma

I live in Williston. Drilling is still on the go in the immediate area as extraction cost break even in this region at around $40-65. But there have been many layoffs. And things have slowed down some but still crazy. I cover the emergency room and have noticed less work related injuries and overall it seems less busy.

rickruddell30 karma

Thanks for the comments - is good to hear that the emergency room traffic has been reduced! We found that the rate of traffic fatalities in ND was ten times greater than the homicide rate. (In most states it is maybe 2 to 4 times higher than the murder rate). Am currently doing a study and we found that boom counties had a statistically higher traffic fatality rate...

gabzmoto27 karma

Wich province of canada you think is the less severe in term of sentence for crimes? As an example, i don't know if you heard of dr Guy Turcotte who murdered his two children in quebec with multiple knifes hit, and he goy away with a diagnostic of mental disease so he is not criminally responsible for the acts he committed. Let me know if quebec is not the only place where the justice system is able to forgive you of murder after 3 years in jail with '' bonne conduite'' thank you for your time.

rickruddell58 karma

Quebec seems to have the least use of imprisonment in Canada and the sentences do not seem to be as harsh as other provinces.

I just did a bit of writing about Not Criminally Responsible verdicts and between 2006 and 2012 there were 13 cases that involved a homicide (in all of Canada).

These are tough cases because the punishment never seems to be "enough" - and many of the persons who have killed are "on the streets" in 3 or 4 years (the person who killed the passenger on the Greyhound bus a few years ago has been released to the community on temporary absences).

The federal government (Statistics Canada) just completed a study on this - and is available at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14085-eng.htm

A_Loki_In_Your_Mind29 karma

I'd like to point out that Vincent Lee will be under medical supervision for the rest of his life. As long as he's medicated he won't kill again.

Hell, I wouldn't even mind if he was my neighbour.

rickruddell46 karma

These cases are difficult as many of us believe that a few years isn't enough "punishment" for committing a murder. But - we also have to trust that the psychiatric and psychological care that he is receiving meets his needs.

One of the challenges with patients taking psychotropic medications is that once they start feeling better they want to discontinue the meds (because of the side effects of those medications).

I am hoping that Mr. Lee has a successful transition back to the community!

TheAsian1nvasion5 karma

I live in Winnipeg and I have a really hard time explaining to people that in order to have a system in our country that actually rehabilitates people instead of one that just creates an endless cycle of crime and poverty, we have to actually believe that anybody can be rehabilitated. What Vincent Lee did was abhorrent, but if the court ruled he was not criminally responsible for his actions, (despite being under enormous pressure to lock him away and throw away the key) then he deserves to have a second chance. That being said, if he ever decides to skip out on his medication, he should never be allowed to leave the hospital ever again.

rickruddell2 karma

My guess is that persons with mental illnesses who commit serious offences and then are released after their rehabilitation are very carefully monitored in the community. As their numbers are so low there hasn't been any research done on their community success. Somebody should be looking into that - if only to confirm the success of these programs. Thanks for the comment!

amfarrell4 karma

Does Quebec operate under a Civil Law system? I know in Common Law, you can't use a mental illness diagnosis as a defense but actually have to make a plea of Insanity.

rickruddell20 karma

Quebec's criminal law system is based on the common law (and is the same as the rest of Canada) but its civil law system (e.g., disputes between individuals that are not criminal) is based on the European civil law - so is a bit different than the rest of Canada.

Fighting_pork4 karma

You might not know but Guy Turcotte will have to go on trial again

rickruddell10 karma

Apparently the trial will start sometime in September (at least according to the CBC)


UrsulaAnn23 karma

Are there any environmental designs (housing, lighting, layout, etc) that can alter crime within these boomtown?

rickruddell29 karma

Hi - Many of these boomtowns were never planned for the volume of people (and traffic) so crime prevention through environmental design (such as lighting) has to be applied after the boom. I hear (but can't confirm) that there is an increased use of closed circuit television (CCTV) in a lot of boomtowns and many residents are now using dash cameras (because of all the erratic driving).

One way that housing problems for transient workers can be reduced is to build "man camps" (which is a fancy phrase for building dozens of trailers in a courtyard with a recreation center and stores/cafeteria). Alcohol/drugs/visitors are not allowed - so it sort of contains the population. In Prince George British Columbia a company actually bought a used cruise ship that is permanently docked in the harbor and serves as housing for 600 persons. That might be called that a containment strategy?

Many corporations are also hiring security forces to supplement the activities of the police.

UrsulaAnn3 karma

With the creation of "man camps" have there been incidents where the costs for goods/services will be artificially high for this somewhat captive population?

rickruddell16 karma

The costs of the man camps are reasonable compared with the "free market" prices of housing in boom towns. People are renting out their garages as residences (with no services other than electrical) for $1,000 or more..... I think that the cost of the man camp in ND is about $1,500 to $1,800 (but could be wrong) but that covers meals as well. The alternative is hotels, which could be $3,000 to $4,000 a month (but are generally sold out for months in advance).

JesseoftheNorth20 karma

Fascinating research, Dr. Ruddell. I am from Nunavut (Arctic Canada) and we are arguably the "last frontier" of the Americas and as a resource-rich area, prone to the boom and bust cycle. We have a very small rural population and also have some of the highest crime rates in Canada, so we are kind of like a petri dish of your area of study.

In your research, have you looked at the case of Nunavut (and the other two northern territories)?

Also, what is your opinion on aboriginal justice systems that are more focused on restorative justice?

rickruddell25 karma

The impact of industrial development (including mining and oil and gas exploration/extraction) in Nunavut is really understudied. So - we don't have much knowledge of what is happening there at all. If you ever want to share any data I would love to see what is happening!

There is a really good (and short) article on the impact of energy development on communities (and the boom-bust cycle) written by Jeffrey Jacquet (from South Dakota State University). It is available free at the following: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es404647x

The problem with resource-based development is that a lot of the social problems are predictable and if they can be predicted then they can also be prevented. There is not always a political willingness to invest in preventing problems......

Re: Restorative justice (RJ) - I can't answer that question very comprehensively (as I am way behind on my posts) but RJ has been used for environmental crime committed by corporations. There is a growing body of research that points out to the success of RJ.

keiryy14 karma

Can most of the violent crimes around boomtowns be traced back to outsiders that are new to the area? Or can the growth of boomtowns somehow inspire more criminal behavior in permanent residents as well? If so, how?

rickruddell17 karma

That is a great question - Carol Archbold (from North Dakota State University) has interviewed police officers in boom counties extensively. The police are reporting that we tend to overlook the "locals" and their contribution to crime and that we are sometimes focusing too much on the "outsiders." Locals tend to blame the outsiders. There are also feuds between insiders and outsiders in some communities.

One of our unanswered questions is the exact contribution of crime by "locals" vs. "outsiders." One area that is also understudied is the impact on juveniles in these communities. Christopher O'Connor (from the University of Ontario Inst. of Tech) has been working with youth from boomtowns and is addressing some of these questions.

4and20blackbirds13 karma

What do you think is the most common or most harmful misconception people have about crime in boomtowns?

rickruddell27 karma

One misconception is that not all boomtowns are the same. Some have really high rates of crime and others manage to self-regulate (control themselves) more effectively.

Some of that challenge comes from the number of workers who are coming into the community to work (more young males in an population generally means more crime).

Another misconception is that it is always the "outsiders" who commit the crimes. Sometimes the locals are committing crimes. Even when it comes to the outsiders - a very small proportion (maybe 10-15% some police say) are the "troublemakers" (e.g. drinking and drug users) and the rest are good citizens. Again - we really don't have much solid research on these factors.

Most of the crime increase appears to be minor - but it still places a significant drain on the police (their 911 calls might double) - so they are run ragged in some places.

fotogneric11 karma

What do you make of (the ascendance of) bio-social criminology? Do you believe, as many of its proponents do, that criminologists tend to downplay or even ignore biological variables, most importantly IQ? Some of the criminologists whom I follow suggest the field is even more blank-slatey that mainstream sociology.

rickruddell22 karma

I think that bio-social criminology will get an increasing amount of attention in the next decade. As most criminologists/sociologists don't have much knowledge about biological factors I think that there is a bit of fear about the "unknown." Brain science (e.g., in terms of adolescent development) has been used to mitigate harsh punishments for juvenile offenders - that might only be the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that we will see a lot more grad. classes in bio-social criminology in the next few years - and that might be a very good thing because most social scientists (such as myself) don't have a very solid grounding in the impact of biological factors on behavior.

fotogneric10 karma

Thx! Looks like exciting times ahead. I'm also looking forward to the end of the "taboo" aura around that kind of research.

rickruddell7 karma

Thanks for participating today!

xampl910 karma

Are there differences in the common crimes that happen between the type of boom? Such as oil vs. gold, vs technology (silicon valley)?

rickruddell18 karma

There are other types of booms - some resort communities experience booms (e.g., the summer people return to the lake or coast and the winter people come for skiing in some places). As these booms are predictable the police can hire additional officers and can generally "tough it out" as they know that the boom will decrease in several months.

If you are interested in reading about seasonal booms in tourist locations - check out Ocean City Maryland - it swells in population from 10,000 year round residents to about 200,000 persons in the summer! Every year they hire about 100 seasonal police officers to manage the demand (and another 40 officers who are in uniform but not sworn police). Despite the population growth violence is rare and between 2006 and 2014 there were three murders.

Booms seem to have the most destructive impact on small communities as the increased population "swamps" all of their infrastructure.

xampl97 karma

Myrtle Beach SC undergoes similar temporary growth, especially during Biker Week and other events. The cops there are not to be messed with, as they have to deal with drunks who claim to be a close personal friend of the governor all the time.

But my question was more about the types of crimes that get committed and if there was a correlation between the types of crime and the type of resource that is being extracted.

Oil field - Bar fights
Silicon Valley - Drugs (Adderall)
or similar?

rickruddell11 karma

The crime data from boom towns is so poor that we can't make any definitive statements about crime types and events that precipitated the offense.

BUT - the US Bureau of Justice Statistics researchers are "drilling down" on the circumstances that led to the crime - those results should be coming out in the next year or so.

Myrtle Beach is a good example of a "temporary" boom where the police must respond to a short term event. Since they know in advance when Biker Week will occur they can bring in additional resources - although I have seem some videos from Biker Week and imagine that policing those events must be very stressful (the annual rally in Sturgis, S.D. is another example of a small town that has 100,000+ visitors).

You raise a great point about whether different resources (e.g., oil or gold or potash) have a different impact. My guess is that in the early stages of the boom there is no real difference - it is the rapid population growth that leads to a breakdown in the social fabric that leads to crime.

xampl98 karma

One last question - is there a rise in vigilantism in a boom town, either by the upset locals, or immigrants who just want a low-drama work environment?

Thanks for the AMA, btw. Appreciate your work.

rickruddell11 karma

Hi xampl9 - we haven't heard specifically about any vigilantism occurring in North American boomtowns, but I have been seeing a lot more mention of vigilantism in South America (in the cities and countryside). It seems that vigilantism increases when ordinary people lose faith in the justice system....

But there is quite a bit of mention of feuds between locals and newcomers in boomtowns - most of it ends in "simple" or "common" assaults (e.g., short fights where there are no serious injuries).

bayleefs9 karma

UofR student here, Are you teaching any classes in the fall?

rickruddell11 karma

Hi- Am teaching police administration in the fall (online)

california_tuesday9 karma

Hi Professor Ruddell: I have to ask, based on your introduction. Why is bee theft such a problem in rural areas? Who is stealing bees, and how are they doing it?

rickruddell11 karma

Some of this was from an earlier post.

There are a growing number of bee thefts for example in rural America/Canada. Who steals bees? We think it is other beekeepers (who else has the equipment?). Because bees are dying off some beekeepers might find it easier to steal other folks bees rather than try to take months to repopulate their bee colonies.

Bee hives are often located in "out of the way" locations which makes it fairly easy to steal them. It might only take a few minutes to steal the hives. But - you would need the right equipment (a truck and the protective gear). So it is probably other rural folks who are beekeepers engaging in these thefts.

I don't think that there is a bee theft "crime wave" but just an increase (if you do a newspaper search you will find that this is happening all over the place).

As hives are rarely insured these thefts can have a big impact on some folks.

yifluffysheep6 karma

Hi Dr. Ruddell - is there a point where the crime rate begins to fall after some years? Or do you see it being maintained at the higher level?

Also, I read in the magazine that the increase is not statistically significant. What do you think is muddling the result? Which control groups seem to carry the most weight? Thanks!

rickruddell17 karma

Hi - If we are talking about crime in boomtowns - it always seems to settle down once the construction related to getting the oil fields online is completed. The number of workers also decreases somewhat and the ones who are in the community also become more "permanent" residents of the town/city. So they generally have more of a stake in the community and more interested in positive or pro-social activities (playing softball instead of drinking - although the two seem to go together so maybe that wasn't the best example!).

We have been finding increases in minor crime (assaults, dwi/dui, disorderly conduct and drug use) but not large increases in serious and violent crimes (homicide, robbery). Some of the violence toward women is hidden - such as assaults, domestic violence and the number of women involved in the sex trade. The US federal government is currently funding researchers from the University of North Dakota are specifically looking at the issue of violence toward women in boom areas.

dmanolar6 karma

Is there a precedent for corporations to do stakeholder assessments before they begin operating in these rural areas? To what extent are they directly responsible for or complicit in crime increases?

rickruddell8 karma

The degree of stakeholder assessments varies - in Canada the process is more involved than in the US - although that might only delay a project rather than stop a project. In tough economic times it is hard for any politician to vote against jobs and economic development.

Corporations are becoming a lot more responsible when it comes to trying to control crime (and being good corporate "citizens"). A colleague of mine worked in the oilpatch for years in the 1980s and drug use was rampant - it is a lot better now and corporations have put into place controls to reduce drug and alcohol use/abuse, use proactive strategies to reduce crime (e.g., by hiring buses to take employees to the "pub" rather than letting them use their own vehicles. Many companies hire drug sniffing dogs to try and reduce the possession of drugs.

So - these companies are taking steps in the right direction. Some would argue that since they profit they should also pay a greater share for the damage that happens to boom communities (environmental as well as crime and reduced quality of life).

dmanolar2 karma

So these damages are unavoidable consequences of extraction that can only be retroactively addressed?

rickruddell6 karma

I think that the most preferable option is to engage in prevention (for the environmental and social problems) - we have a fairly good idea of the impacts of a boom (but not how long the boom will last) - so we should be developing strategies to mitigate or reduce the negative impacts before they occur......

But - It is difficult to advocate for prevention in poor rural communities that have little money and are unsure if the boom will last. In some cases the municipal or county administrators are simply overwhelmed by the boom.

dmanolar3 karma

Very interesting. Thank you for your answers!

rickruddell3 karma

Thanks for participating today!

dmanolar1 karma

one more question- could one argue that in cases where local administrations are overwhelmed by booms, corporations should not only prevent, but be proactive and support these administrations? Seems similar to arguments that in situations where businesses are much more powerful than govts, businesses are responsible for problems that they do not even directly cause.

rickruddell3 karma

Many local administrators do not have the depth in skills to respond to a doubling of the population in a short period of time. If the world was a better place the corporations would have a list of strategies to help those administrators minimize the damage of the boom. But - local governments are sometimes really hesitant to implement any major changes until they know whether the boom will persist. I was talking to a police chief a few weeks ago (from a boom city) and was told that the local elected government leaders were not going to spend any additional funds even though they realized that the city services were stretched thin...

There has to be a balance where the public is protected and the climate is good for business (as we need the jobs and revenue). Trouble is that nobody can agree on that balance!

Googlybearhug4u5 karma

i understand that in north dakota there are lots of good paying jobs, but nowhere to live. so basically workers wind up living in their truck campers, trailers, motor homes and such. how does that affect the mindset of people in that situation? i imagine that no matter the moneys they accumulate, they may still feel like they are living in squalor.

your thoughts?

rickruddell8 karma

You have a good observation! Many of the "careers" of the newcomers are short lived if they cannot find decent housing. Camping in one's car or truck "gets old" pretty quick. Housing is a key problem in boomtowns - there just isn't enough affordable decent housing.

This is also a problem when local governments try to hire more teachers, social workers, police officers, nurses and other civic or county workers. If they have to move in from another city their wages don't go very far.

XxxOGLADxxX4 karma

Hello Dr. Ruddell, I'm going to be studying Criminal Justice in college next year and plan to have a career as a Criminologist. What steps can I take to ensure that I can become one?

rickruddell10 karma

Please send me an email to my university email address - I will be able to help you out.

GordDownieforPM3 karma

You think Allen or Messam gets the starting RB job for the Riders?

rickruddell2 karma

Can't help you there - am a baseball fan......

Frajer3 karma

do you think there is a poverty component to crime in rural areas?

rickruddell5 karma

Some rural crime (esp. property crime) is related to poverty and when times get tough we usually see an increase in thefts including rustling (stealing livestock such as cattle) although it is sometimes difficult to figure out who is committing those offenses - some "city folk" engage in rural crime.

In the latest recession we also an increase in domestic violence.

amfarrell3 karma

Hi Rick, I'm currently working on DevOps for an open source software project for DARPA to collect, analyze, and present data related to human trafficking. I'm not doing much data science personally, but I know. We saw a sharp increase in activity around North Dakota's oil boom.

What sort of tools do you currently use, what frustrations do you have with it, and what would be helpful for you in doing research and communicating it to the public?

rickruddell3 karma

To date we have been relying on officially reported crime statistics and there are all sorts of problems with those statistics (incomplete data and a lack of consistent reporting). One of the problems is that many of these boom counties are very small (less than 5,000 residents) and they might only have 2 or 3 officers/deputies - so they don't have much time to hunt down statistics and then report them.

In other words - we haven't been using any sophisticated quantitative methods, but are also using a mixed methods approach where we are doing a bit of qualitative research with vulnerable populations (e.g., women victims).

I would be very interested in seeing some of the data you have collected (once it becomes public).

albacore_futures3 karma

I think I missed you, but I have a couple of questions if you are still reading replies / have the time to respond.

My background is in international relations, and as part of that I've studied development and what happens to countries who experience a sudden resource boom (oil, LNG, minerals, whatever). The consensus on whether or not that boom has positive effects on the society at large seems to be that the answer depends on institutional frameworks. It is a bit of a tautology - countries better equipped to handle resource booms, in other words, handle resource booms better - but the broad framework helps explain why resource-rich Central African Republic is one of the worst countries on earth to live in, while resource-rich Norway is one of the best.

The IR literature has also attempted to make distinctions based on the type of boom which the states enjoy. Extracting oil requires one type of company (rich) and institutional arrangement (laws to protect the oil company / rig, taxation, etc), while extraction of other raw materials (say, sand) can be feasibly done without such an institutional setup. So, while there might be criminal cartels in India paying people by the satchel of sand that they can illegally dig up from rivers, such a setup wouldn't work for oil. As a result, there are big differences in how an oil boom and how a sand boom plays out, in terms of winners and losers but also in terms of who is in charge / who primarily benefits.

I apologize for the IR 101 course, but it is relevant to my two questions, which are:

  1. Do you study primarily "tabula rasa" towns? By "tabula rasa" I mean towns that were literally raised overnight to facilitate the needs of the massively-expanded resource workers, or those which were small and grew a large factor when the boom hit. The reason I ask is tied to the institutional framework for nations. If, for example, it was discovered that Manhattan has sizeable oil deposits offshore that need 100,000 workers to exploit, the NYC judicial and police systems would likely be able to deal with the problems that result. However, if your study is looking primarily at towns were the systems of governance is under-developed (say, a North Dakota town with population of 100 people which grows to 10k overnight due to workers), or towns with no systems of governance (a true boomtown, built practically overnight), then I would expect that you'd find a pretty good correlation between influx of workers and societal unrest / crime problems. What I'm wondering is whether or not you are consistently studying towns with low governance capacity (in which case I'd very much expect you to find criminal problems) or whether there is a mix, in which case the conclusions might not be so clear.

  2. How generalizeable is your work? Do you think your research has implications for resource booms at scales larger than the town or county? This is almost certainly beyond your remit, but I cannot help but wonder if there is some discovery in the crime statistics of states before and after resource booms (for example, say Libya before oil and Libya after oil). Such a study would be very hard to set up methodologically - and would need to control for the type of resource being extracted - but might be relevant to your interests and so maybe you've come across something like that.

Thanks for your time, and for doing your research.

rickruddell5 karma

You raised a good question re a tabula rosa town - and there may be a way to study that. In BC they are building a new hydro dam that will require thousands of workers for 3 to 4 years - I believe that the dam is in an unpopulated area. Would be an interesting study to see what happens when one builds a brand new town. This also happened in WW2 - am thinking that the nuclear weapons program in Oak Ridge Tennessee grew from 3,000 population to 75,000 in several years (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Ridge,_Tennessee )

Would love to study booms on a larger scale - thanks for the suggestions!

FutureChuck3 karma

What made you decide to pursue this career?

rickruddell7 karma

Was interested in crime - and getting a formal education enabled me to follow my interests. In many ways this is the best job in the world as one can study things one is interested in (although that makes me a nerd I guess!).

4and20blackbirds2 karma

I'm kind of confused because the abstract of this paper (http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/wescrim15&div=6&id=&page=) says, "Inconsistent with the media portrayal of these communities as a new 'wild west' we did not find a significant association between oil or natural gas production and property or violent crime . . . ."

But then, in the Pacific Standard story (http://www.psmag.com/nature-and-technology/the-human-cost-of-keystone-xl), you're quoted as saying, "This is meaningful for the people who are living it."

Can you help me understand the bottom line? Is there more crime in boomtowns? Is it just hard to know?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

rickruddell15 karma

I think that the point that we were trying to make is that a crime increase might not be statistically significant but it is operationally significant for the police (a 20% increase in workload might be devastating to the police if they were already stretched thin).

Bottom line: In the early stages of a boom crime always seems to increase, but it is mostly minor crime that really reduces the quality of life for the residents (minor assaults, drunk driving, disorderly conduct, drug use, prostitution, and general "rowdy" behavior).

In terms of violent crime - we are hearing that organized crime is moving into these boomtowns. Also - murder in North Dakota has also increased since the start of the boom, but is still less than half the national murder rate.

4and20blackbirds3 karma

Oh, that's helpful, thanks!

What about rape and violence against women in particular, since that's the focus of the magazine story?

rickruddell19 karma

Our knowledge of violence toward women is really under-developed. The official number of sexual assaults reported to the police has not shown a "spike" in most boom counties. But - we also know that victims of sexual assault are often reluctant to report their victimization (it is the most un-reported crime).

In order to get a more complete picture of the issue of violence toward women in boomtowns/counties, the US Department of Justice has funded some top notch researchers from the University of North Dakota (Dheeshana Jayasundara, Thomasine Heitkamp, and Roni Mayzer) to study this problem and specifically violence toward women on Indian Reservations.

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics is also examining this issue (crime and violence in boom communities and also Indian Reservations). They are updating research that was last done in 2004 and 2008 (which predates the boom).

The anecdotal information (the information that newspaper reporters often use) suggests that life for many women in boom counties and boomtowns is awful because the number of men disrupts the "normal" gender ratio (of about one to one for men and women). Many of the young men in these towns are single and lonely (away from home) and since they do not have a big investment in the community their behavior toward the local women can be abusive and disrespectful and sometimes criminal. Many women report getting permits to carry guns in order to defend themselves.

I know that this isn't a very satisfying answer (e.g., we need to wait for research) but the problem is very serious and we need the best information if we are going to come up with effective solutions.

4and20blackbirds6 karma

Ha, you're right, that's not the most satisfying possible answer, but it's good to know about these efforts to study it better.

rickruddell8 karma

While I can be critical of the US federal government's crime statistics - they are doing all of the "right things" to try to shed light on the problem.

dicksinabag2 karma

What responsibility do oil and gas companies have to the communities they work in, especially when their employees are involved? How far should that go? Are there any interesting community efforts being made by oil companies, outside of self-interested propaganda, that you know of?

rickruddell2 karma

In North America resource companies have not played as great a role in financially supporting communities undergoing a boom than in other nations (such as Australia).

Throughout North America, however, we are expecting corporations that benefit from the "boom" to pay a greater share of the burdens that boom communities experience. It would be nice to have some corporate folks here to present their side of the story as sometimes their efforts are not well acknowledged. Again, one of the limitations of studying booms is that there is no central "clearing house" of information about the environmental, crime, social, and health impacts of the boom. Researchers from these fields rarely talk to each other so we don't know what other studies are occurring.

Long story short - researchers have to do a better job of putting the "big picture" together so we can all speak more intelligently about the problem (I guess I am part of the problem!)

podrick_pain2 karma

Dr. Ruddell-- A few questions re: the "outsiders." Is there a noticeable cultural divide in these boomtowns between the "outsiders" and locals? Do the outsiders ban together? And concerning crimes, you mentioned that a small portion, maybe 10-15%, of outsiders are the troublemakers. Do you find that the good 85-90% are fed up with the small minority of troublemakers who are giving outsiders a bad name?

rickruddell6 karma

The relationship between the insiders and outsiders seems to vary by community and the stage of the boom. In the early days of the boom the outsiders are probably better welcomed as the locals are excited about the economic development. As the boom persists the locals get tired of the increased population and their impact on local services (affordable housing is scarce and there are now waiting lines for a restaurant meal - the local health, education and social services are also stretched). Clayton O'Conner has studied insider/outsider relations and found that the locals have more tolerance for newcomers who plan on staying in the community and making a life there. They have less tolerance for workers who are just coming to the community and will leave as soon as the job ends.

Carol Archbold's interviews with police from boomtowns found that one struggle for some communities is that the "outsiders" are sometimes very different in terms of race and ethnicity and their place of origin. As a result, someone from Louisiana might have a different set of values and mindset than their neighbors if they settle in North Dakota.

By the end of the boom many locals want things to "go back" to the "way they were" before the boom.

As a side note - every year there are 2,000 more millionaires in North Dakota because of the boom!

GotAhGurs2 karma

Sort of related question. I'm interested in your thoughts on whether outsiders "bring crime with them" when they move to a new community. I'm thinking of transient communities like those you've mentioned here, but also populations that scatter for some reason and then it's said that they brought crime (like Houston after people fleeing Hurricane Katrina settled there).

Is there any evidence that some populations bring crime with them? Or would the increase in population (or some other expected thing about the increase in population) have resulted in a crime increase, anyway?

In other words, if we just cloned all the people in a community (or cloned all the people in a community that have the same demographics as the newcomers, which is probably a much more complicated question), should we expect the same result with respect to crime? Or are there just some populations that are more criminal (and, if so, is there something interesting to be said about their criminality or its causes / effects)?

I've been wondering about this since the Houston / Katrina thing. It's not like Houston was some peaceable kingdom before all the Katrina people showed up, so I wonder how you tell the difference. And, if you can tell the difference after the fact, could you have predicted it in advance?

rickruddell3 karma

Is there a criminal population - not directly - but there is a crime prone population:

The population increase in the first stages of a boom is predictable and the type of individuals (e.g., young, often single, and transient without an investment or stake in the community) and often in crime prone ages (before their 25th birthday). Combined with high amounts of disposable income these young people are often involved in crime at a higher rate. Many drink too much and drug use is common (although occurs less frequently than decades ago).

These folks come from across the country to work in places like ND - so it is a different dynamic than the folks who moved from NOLA after Katrina to Houston.

rickruddell3 karma

There is also an increase in the number of people with criminal records in boomtown populations - this doesn't necessarily make them more criminal than other folks - but we have speculated that since getting a job with a record (even for minor offenses) is difficult, so these folks go "where the work is."

GotAhGurs2 karma

These folks come from across the country to work in places like ND - so it is a different dynamic than the folks who moved from NOLA after Katrina to Houston.

When you say "a different dynamic", do you mean that the people who go to ND, etc. are from all over the place, while the Katrina people were all from one place? Or something else?

rickruddell2 karma

Sorry I wasn't more clear - yes - the folks from ND come from all over the nation. I don't know if anybody has really studied the impacts of the migration of NOLA folks (and elsewhere) to Houston. I heard that the crime increased but it is sometimes difficult to figure out if it was the NOLA folks or some other factor contributed to changes in the crime rate.....

Socra_tease2 karma

As a student of the UofR, I have to ask: how often do you get jokes about the Riddell Center?

rickruddell2 karma

Its a different spelling - so don't get many jokes (have no idea who Riddell was!)

[deleted]1 karma


rickruddell3 karma

The Supreme Court struck down the execution of juveniles a few years ago in the Roper decision - so persons who were under age 18 at the time of the crime can't be executed. The Court also placed restrictions on life without parole for juveniles - so all juveniles must have access to parole (although no guarantees that it would be granted).

There are fewer juveniles being sentenced to life terms today than there were years ago (but juvenile involvement in homicide has also really decreased since the mid-1990s).

The use of transfers to adult courts has also decreased although prosecutors in most states can direct file cases (which means that they bypass the juvenile court altogether)

I think that the last execution of a individual who was under 18 at the time of their offence was 20 years ago (mid 1990s) so it wouldn't have much of a deterrent effect (I might be off a few years on that date....).

savngtheworld1 karma

I've been getting into arguments recently about welfare as it relates to crime. I argue for welfare not only for compassionate reasons, but because I figure it would reduce crime. I.e. people who are capable of eating, drinking, etc. with housing who aren't desperate to survive are less likely to steal, sell drugs, fight, murder etc. in their attempts to survive.

Do you think Welfare helps reduce crime in this manner, or plays an important role in increasing/decreasing crime, even if it's only certain types of crimes?

rickruddell2 karma

Having a strong social safety net probably reduces crime, but only to an extent. I think I mentioned above that many European nations have very strong social welfare programs but property crime is higher than in Canada or the US (although fewer murders)

torlandomtl1 karma

How would the building of a large dam, say something like Site C in BC, have an adverse effect on crime?

rickruddell1 karma

Hi - the same dynamic as other boomtowns may apply as the rush of transient workers will increase crime (although most will be minor offenses).


As this is a 3 or 4 year project my guess is that many workers will be older and well established. If that is the case, the population change may have less of an impact on crime (I think that they were anticipating 10,000 workers?)

NovusDeus1 karma

Would you consider the discover of agriculture as a resource boom that produced crime and violence or is your field more modern centric?

rickruddell1 karma

I guess my study is more modern centric.

I will throw out a "guess" - as farming required folks to settle down it probably reduced crime and violence as individuals were less nomadic (and therefore had fewer "wars" with surrounding neighbors). That is a guess.....but you raised an interesting question!

meowmeowsss1 karma

Good day sir , I myself just moved here from new Bru swick, I have a great job, very steady , but man the one thing I noticed here is the racism. I've been robbed outside broad daylight outside cornwall, truck stolen at a gas station, and all this in eight months. I find white people arnt welcome here and you can't tell me you don't see it.. what's your views on the racism crime rate?

rickruddell1 karma

We have been here five years and have been very lucky (no victimization yet and we don't live in a very good areas) although Regina has one of the highest crime rates in the nation.

It is no secret that there is racism in Saskatchewan but we don't know how it is related to crime. Sorry I can't give you a better answer - as it falls outside of my expertise.....

OfficerOvaries1 karma

Why in god's name would you choose to live in Regina?

rickruddell1 karma

To be closer to family and I am blessed with a great job.

bearkin11 karma

Hi Dr. Ruddell,

Does the similarity in name of Riddell Centre in any way affect your tendency to sit their and enjoy a Tim Hortons coffee?

rickruddell2 karma

Never drank a coffee in my life - so am not a big customer of Tim's. Would much rather have a beer in the Lazy Owl, but the beer is too expensive there....

bearkin11 karma

Yeah I don't think anyone really likes The Owl, even the people that go there. I'm a tea guy, myself.

rickruddell2 karma

Am not sure who designed the OWL but it sure isn't a very relaxing place......Thanks for participating today!

SoManyOrifices1 karma

Do "resource booms" typically create a greater demand for prostitution?

rickruddell4 karma

Yes - studies going back 150 years have found the same thing - whenever you have a lot of well paid young men with lots of disposable income - the sex trade workers will come to those communities.

JesseSmash1 karma

As a fellow Saskatchewanian, I have a question comparing two recent local cases. How is it that someone who drives drunk and crashes, killing a teenager gets 17 months prison time, yet someone who stabs and kills someone who is robbing them gets the book thrown at them? Both are manslaughter, are they not?

rickruddell1 karma

There is no minimum sentence in Canada for Manslaughter: So it is a crime that can be punished by probation (lowest range) and I believe -- life imprisonment (highest range). I don't have any information about the cases but it doesn't sound as though justice was served in the case of the impaired driver. Time served in custody might have counted for some reduction in the custody sentence.

GUIGirl841 karma

Have you ever looked at the oil booms in place like Midland, TX where the locals are use to the ebb and flow of the economy depending on the next boom or bust? If so do you find more crime from locals who can't handle the stress of increased prices and population or from migrant workers who follow the jobs into the area?

rickruddell3 karma

We spent more time looking at the ND and Canadian boomtowns. We looked at the TX boom counties and it doesn't seem that crime increased as much as other places. There was very little difference prior to the boom and after the boom occurred.

Some places seem more vulnerable to increases in crime. Pennsylvania boom counties didn't have as great an increase as what occurred in ND (although crime did increase).

One of the mysteries of what we are studying is that some places with rapid population growth seem less affected by the boom. But quality of life is more than crime and other social ills occur (including traffic congestion and collisions) and the impact of the boom on housing and civic services....

QueefLatinaTheThird1 karma

I've lived on reserves in northern Alberta, and northern Manitoba, and the ones in Alberta were basically normal towns, and Manitoba were bordering on third world war zones. The Alberta reserves had industry on them, while Manitoba were just communities set up with no purpose for people to live there, like every other town in the world. Does the industry not also decrease the crime and increase the quality of life?

rickruddell2 karma

Industry and wealth does not always mean a peaceful environment. The Hobbema reserve in Alberta, for example, has a lot of revenue from oil but rates of crime have been very high there.

I do think that you are correct when you say that when folks have jobs and opportunity (and hope for the future) there will be less crime and the quality of life will be higher.

Shitalking_Mushroom1 karma


rickruddell2 karma

That is one areas that is under-studied although the recent drop in oil prices will serve as a "natural experiment" where we can learn about the impact of a bust on crime. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that once the transient workers return home, rates of crime return to more or less normal.

Claeyt1 karma

Besides the massive Political changes, how else has cheap oil changed the areas economy, social life? North Dakota has seen layoffs and much less hiring. Have the tar sands areas seen less hiring as well?

rickruddell1 karma

Things have really slowed down in the tar sands. The break even point for oil extraction in the sands is $87. (at least that was a figure cited in the National Post - a Canadian newspaper) and the current price of oil is around $60 a barrel.

There have been lots of layoffs and job losses in the tar sands. The number of transient workers has decreased so it is giving Fort McMurray (the largest city in the boom area) a bit of a break from crime and traffic congestion. Although to be fair, rates of police reported crime in Fort McMurray have been decreasing over the past five years.

Jacks_Grin1 karma

Will I ever get married?

rickruddell6 karma

Depends on gender: If you are a male living in a boomtown - there might not be a very big "dating pool" (eligible women) but if you are a woman, there are a million guys and many are earning over $100,000.

emanresol1 karma

What is the proper pronunciation of 'Regina'?

rickruddell3 karma

RE-gina. Nice people here -about 210,000 altogether. They brew good beer (but it is expensive - about $25.00 for a 12-pack) but the winters are harsh and it always seems to be windy. Good university (shameless plug for my employer).

emanresol2 karma

Heh, I always heard it pronounced like it rhymes with, well, you know.

How is the 'i' pronounced? As in 'ice'? As in 'in'? Or like a long 'e'?

topace103 karma

Hello! Regina is indeed pronounced like a part of female anatomy

Source: Am Canadian, had to learn the provincial capitals

emanresol1 karma

Are you calling OP a big, fat liar?

topace104 karma

No, sorry for any misunderstanding

The "Re-" is pronounced like the "re" in reply, while the "-gina" is like the "i" in ice as you suggested

rickruddell3 karma

Thanks Topace10!

keiryy1 karma

What creative responses have you seen in local justice systems? How have small towns without the population to support increasing police forces been able to adapt to increasing crime?

rickruddell1 karma

In terms of policing - many counties find it difficult to hire additional officers (as the potential officers can make much more money driving truck) - so they have had to increase salaries, hire additional reserve or part time officers (in some places) and hire security officers to supplement their activities.

In many places the courts end up delaying matters. Judges have commented that in addition to criminal matters there is also an increase in child welfare cases and other civil cases.

One of the things that we were hoping to do with our research was to develop a list of "best practices" (or what worked) in both reducing crime as well as providing the best justice system responses.