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Don’t play politics with crime

It‘s often good form to give an underdog political candidate an “A for effort.” But when the effort is so ham-handed, so forced, so flat-out silly, it’s difficult to award even a “C minus.”

That’s a generous grade for the Democratic challenger for North Dakota attorney general in light of her remarks following release of the latest state crime statistics. Grand Forks lawyer Kiara Kraus-Parr said in a (hastily?) prepared statement that “out-of-control” violent crime and drug trafficking are eroding the foundations of our communities.” So far so good.

But then she attributed the erosion (all of it, apparently) to Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. She said he “has been either unable or unwilling to stop this crime spree.”

If that wasn’t hyperbolic enough, she added, “The numbers demonstrate that, after 14 years in office, he has been ineffective in safeguarding our way of life.”

She has to be kidding. The attorney general is responsible for a “crime spree” that has accompanied an increase in population and the explosion of development in oil country and elsewhere in the state? Really? He has not “safeguarded our way of life?” Oh, please. Pass the smelling salts.

It’s difficult to take Kraus-Parr seriously if she believes Stenehjem, or any single officeholder, can prevent the inevitability of crime following money. The pattern in oil country is a North Dakota rerun of similar phenomena wherever economic booms occur.

Addressing the crime aspects of unprecedented development has to be a joint law enforcement effort, and it is in the Oil Patch. Stenehjem has been a leader (if not the leader) in developing cooperation and collaboration among law enforcement agencies — from local sheriffs to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It is instructive that Kraus-Parr did not go after U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Tim Purdon, who, in another life, was a leader of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party. Purdon also has been a front-line leader in pursuing a multijurisdictional campaign to stem a crime wave, the character of which has never before been seen in North Dakota.

The reality behind the crime stats is more complicated than a political cheap shot. Efforts to ramp up resources to fight crime, not only in oil country but all over the state, should not be politicized. Stenehjem and Purdon have not done so. The Democratic candidate for attorney general should take a lesson from them.