Pennsylvania

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A Closer Look At PSU’s New Drilling Study

Scott Detrow / StateImpactPA/WITF

Sheila Delosa and another Dispatcher work in Tioga County's 911 center

Yesterday, we told you about a preliminary Penn State University study showing no correlation between Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling boom and crime rates. The study found calls to the State Police and arrests have stayed relatively level in Pennsylvania’s top drilling counties.

In a phone interview with StateImpact Pennsylvania today, author Gary Zajac stressed the results are preliminary. “We do want to pursue this further,” he said. Zajac, who heads PSU’s Justice Center For Research, is looking for additional data. “We looked at State Police incident responses, as well as arrest data. But there are other indicators we can look at.” He’d like to talk to county court officials about whether or not they’re seeking an uptick in service requests, and take a look at local police department’s arrest records.

The goal, he said, is to confirm or debunk the idea that as more and more drillers move into places like Butler, Tioga, Greene and Washington Counties, more and more crimes are taking place. “As researchers, one of the things we like to do is separate anecdotes from data, or at least support anecdotes with data,” Zajac said.

Last summer, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported the amount of 911 calls handled by dispatchers has increased in seven of the state’s eight top drilling counties.

Zajac said he and research associate Lindsay Kowalski didn’t receive any funding for this study. “This is something we were doing in our spare time,” he said.

While the report found steady overall crime rates in drilling counties, it did show an annual increase in the amount of arrests for driving under the influence. “That was a case where the data did support the reports we’d been hearing,” said Zajac.

Read the full preliminary report below:

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