The rapid development of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania over the past decade, and the population growth and in-migration of labor associated with it, has raised questions about increases in criminal activity. This study (Brasier & Rhubart 2016) funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania examined changes in crime related to Marcellus shale development from 2005-2012. The study is longitudinal (including data from before and after drilling), comparative (including locations with and without drilling activity), and controls for additional variables known to influence arrest rates, such as population density and percent of the population living in poverty. Included in criminal activity are four individual crimes: driving under the influence, drunkenness, drug use violations, and disorderly conduct. The rates of arrest occurrence for these four crimes are measured in areas with no wells, 1-7 wells, 8-85 wells, 86-292 wells, and greater than 292 wells.
Overall, crime generally declined across the region from 2005 to 2012, including in counties with Marcellus Shale development. However, the findings indicated that counties with higher well development experienced slight increases in driving under the influence and disorderly conduct arrests in 2011 and 2012. Although the study did control for additional variables that may have caused this change, it is still not certain how much of the increases are related to Marcellus Shale development.
It is important to remember that the data used in this study reflects rates of arrest, and not rates of crime exactly. While arrest rates can provide an indication of crime, they could also be indicators for police activity and areas of enforcement. An increase in police or community attention to certain crimes can lead to an increase in arrests, while the rate of crime remains constant.
Overall, the study showed that different areas of Marcellus Shale development see different effects on arrest rates. You can refer to “Varied Boomtown Experiences” to consider why this may be.