Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Marcellus Shale and Crime: The Unintended Peril

Interesting article by Zack Needles of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly on how the boon in drilling as a result of to the Marcellus Shell is having an impact on crime rate in smaller counties across the commonwealth. The complete article is below:

Does More Drilling Mean More Crime?

Zack Needles
Pennsylvania Law Weekly
August 8, 2011
The meteoric rise of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania in recent years has boosted the economies of some of the state's smallest and most rural counties.

But for some members of law enforcement in those counties, the frenzy surrounding the Marcellus Shale has also led to rapid population swells and, by extension, more crime.

"Economic boom equals crime boom," said Daniel J. Barrett, the district attorney of Bradford County, Pa., which borders southern New York.

According to Barrett, his county saw a 60 percent rise in drunk driving arrests and a 35 percent rise in criminal sentences in 2010.

Barrett said he believes those increases are at least partially attributable to the gas industry workers who have come to the county in droves over the past few years.

And local law enforcement, including his office, is starting to feel the strain, Barrett said.

"The issue is we've got an expanded burden on the criminal justice system," he said, adding that while the private housing market, for example, responded to the population uptick by expanding hotels and increasing the number of rental properties, there has been no comparable way for law enforcement to adapt to its increased caseload.

"The hotel that makes lots of money expands, but the criminal justice system that's taking more cases can't look to its customers to fund an expansion," he said.

And while Barrett said he expects his office will call for additional funding from the county government, most law enforcement agencies in the area, including the district attorney's office, are handling the caseload increase simply by "enduring it."

"We've been spending more time on what we do," he said. "As always, we keep looking for ways to get more work done each week ,and we work pretty hard at that. Now we're having to see what else we can do."

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