- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s crime rate per capita last year rose 4.4 percent from 2013, due in part to a “worrisome” record increase in illegal drug activity in the state, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Wednesday.

The annual report, which provides statistics for crimes ranging from murder to car thefts and other property crimes, shows that crime was up in most categories. Drunken driving arrests were down last year and aggravated assault dropped for the first time in more than 15 years, Stenehjem said.

“We do have some good news,” Stenehjem said during the news conference at the state Capitol. “And we have some very, very alarming, bad news.”

Drug arrests increased from 3,399 in 2013 to 4,000 last year and have nearly doubled in the past decade, data show.

Stenehjem said illegal drugs increasingly are coming into the state from drug cartels “and they’re very often heavily armed.”

Aggravated assaults had increased for a decade and a half but dropped from 1,156 in 2013 to 1,145 last year. Stenehjem said the state’s 12 biggest oil-producing counties bucked the trend, with 373 aggravated assaults reported last year, up from 346 in 2013.

The report said more than $38 million worth of property was reported stolen in 2014, with about a quarter of it recovered by law enforcement.

Stenehjem said 19 murders occurred last year, up from 14 in 2013. The state averages about a dozen murders annually.

The number of drunken driving arrests statewide dropped from 7,117 in 2013 to 6,705 last year. Stenehjem said tougher drunken-driving laws passed by the Legislature two years ago may be behind the decrease.

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