Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Rise of sexual predators in energy boomtowns highlights social problems

Research into the social and environmental effects on communities that are economically dependent on oil and gas industries has revealed "social dysfunction and biological impoverishment."

The research, published in Conservation Biology, revealed that over a nine year period the number of registered sex offenders in energy 'boomtowns' was two to three times higher than towns dependent on other industries.

The research, carried out by Dr Joel Berger and Dr Jon P. Beckmann, analysed communities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) in Wyoming USA, an area often referred to as the largest intact ecosystem in Earth's temperate zone. Many towns across the area are dependent on energy extraction, while others are dependent on agriculture and tourism. The authors assessed whether social and environmental issues are related to the industries that dominate these boomtowns.

"In the past few years it has become clear that the development of wide-scale energy projects takes both social and environmental tolls," said Berger from the University of Montana and Wildlife Conservation Society. "Our research identified societal markers to reveal the negative elements associated with changing human economies and to gauge changes in both community composition and services. One of these markers was the increase in sexual predators."

Through nine local county attorney's offices the authors were able to study the number of registered sexual offenders, defined as convicted felons that are required by law to register with legal authorities, across the Greater Yellowstone area.

The research revealed that over a nine year period the number of sexual offenders grew by two to three times more in areas dependent on oil extraction than in similar areas dependent on agriculture or tourism.

In 2008 there were 300% more sexual offenders in the GYE than in 1997 when the US Sex Offenders Registry became law. The number of sex offenders increased most rapidly in counties dominated by oil and gas extraction.

"The absolute and relative frequency of registered sexual offenders grew faster in areas reliant on energy extraction," Berger confirmed. "This is a severe symptom of the social problems faced by these communities. These problems, coupled with a parallel rise in ecological destruction, fit a pattern which has been reflected consistently around energy boomtowns from Ecuador to northern Canada."

"This is not to say that the arrival of the energy industry into a community directly leads to sexual predation. Rather it is symptomatic of wider social and economic issues which communities face when they become dependent on the rise and fall of these industries," said Beckmann from the Wildlife Conservation Society. "Our findings underscore an increase in sexual predators as a result of the dramatic social upheaval caused when a large influx of people are attracted to energy boomtowns due to high rates of employment and high salaries."

Other symptoms of social change seen in energy boomtowns across the western United States include the use of illicit drugs, domestic violence, wildlife poaching and a general rise in crime. The research suggests that these changes occur because of the differences between the traditional rural residents and the incoming workforce.

The link between these social issues and environmental change has led to the rise of unlikely alliances as social advocates and state agencies have banded together across the area to conserve the potential for traditional rural lifestyles.

"Our findings suggest that the public and industry need stronger regulatory action to instil greater vigilance in areas which face ecological, economic and social problems, due to dependence on the energy industry," concluded Berger.

Ben Norman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>