The Marcellus shale play, which has attracted significant drilling and production activity and brought an influx of companies and workers into Pennsylvania, has also created more opportunity for theft of oil field-related equipment, including tools, copper, drill bits and pipe.
To help deter oil and gas-related crimes in Pennsylvania, Energy Crime Stoppers, founded in Texas three years ago to help deter energy industry-related crimes, has been expanded into the Keystone state.
The program is focused on supplementing local law enforcement by gathering anonymous tips for oil and gas-related theft and passing them along to local law enforcement agencies.
Like the regular Crime Stoppers program, callers can report energy-related crimes to a hotline, 888-645-TIPS, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a tip results in an arrest and conviction, Energy Crime Stoppers funds rewards of up to $1,000.
The program is promoted through signs, billboards, stickers and other materials displaying the hotline number. The program also offers a computer application for automating the reporting process; this can be downloaded to cell phones while maintaining the caller’s anonymity.
Costs of the program are borne completely by the 130-member companies of Energy Crime Stoppers.
Pennsylvania is the ninth state into which the Energy Crime Stoppers program has been expanded, said John Chamberlain, executive director of the Energy Security Council, a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the safety, security and business operations of its members, companies, corporations and their associates.
Other states with Energy Crime Stoppers programs include Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Companies wanting to participate in the program can order bumper stickers and other items to publicize Energy Crime Stoppers around oil and gas worksites.
"At sites where Energy Crime Stoppers is publicized, our members report less crime taking place than at sites without the Energy Crime Stoppers stickers," Chamberlain said.
Energy Crime Stoppers also offers training to state and local law enforcement agencies to familiarize them with drilling and production sites, safety procedures, and transportation aspects of the business, said Energy Crime Stoppers board member Ed Dillard.
"We've already conducted law enforcement training in Pennsylvania," Dillard commented. "These training programs, coupled with the hotline, have combined to create an important resource for law enforcement, and it's all paid for by our member companies."
The Marcellus shale program will be coordinated with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers, an independent organization who activities are coordinated by Pennsylvania State Police.
DUIs Increase with O&G Worker Influx in Bradford County, Pa.
Located 60 miles south of Ithaca, N.Y, near the Pennsylvania-New York border, Bradford County, Penn., was home a few years ago to 60,000 people and a workforce focused on farming and dairy.
Since drilling activity began in 2005, the county's population has grown to 80,000 as the Marcellus shale boom has created numerous jobs in the region, ranging from technicians to drivers who haul dirt, rigs and fracking water. To date, 299 wells have been drilled in the county targeting the Marcellus shale, with an estimated 600 wells permitted.
All facets of life in Bradford County have been impacted by the Marcellus shale, save the county’s nursing homes. Chicken fried steak also is now readily available in restaurants – a trend unheard of a decade ago. With the population increase has come more traffic, more demand for housing, schools and other services – and more crime in all categories, including bar fights and theft.
The most significant increase in crime seen in Bradford County has been the number of driving under the influence (DUI) arrests prosecuted, which rose by 35 percent from 2009-2010, said Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barnett.
The DUI increase occurred with the increase in 20-50 year olds in the county, single with no children, who typically don’t have houses to paint or children to preoccupy their time after work.
"It's not a gas problem or guys from the gas field problem, it's a people problem," said Barnett. "There are just more men and women of an age that tends to go out at night" and make trouble.
The criminal trial schedule has been expanded to accommodate the additional workload, and five additional state troopers have been added to the station that covers Bradford county.
Barnett noted that the gas companies test workers for alcohol and drugs and don't typically let workers drink when they're on their 12-day shift, even when they go home at night. They also haven't been bailing workers out of jail, and have paved the county's roads to make for damage inflicted by heavy traffic.
"They’re pro law enforcement," Barnett said. "Nobody wants a drunk on a drilling rig."
A similar trend in increasing crime associated with shale boom activity has been seen in the Bakken in North Dakota. The influx of oil and gas workers has resulted in an increase in crime and need for more police officers. The number of traffic offenses and assaults has increased in Williams County, N.D.
The local police department has doubled the size of its patrol division and may do so again next year, said Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching.
"The number one factor inhibiting hiring is housing, of which there is none," Busching said.
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