South Dakota's reservations have seen an explosion of juvenile and drug-related crime in recent years, the result of a system where offenders see no officers to arrest them, no means to get them to court and no place to put them if convicted. Efforts to deal with the problem are stymied by a lack of money, complicated jurisdiction laws and sovereignty issues.
Everybody, it seems, has a story about crime. Josephine Thunder Shield said her former husband, who was staying with her and her six children, was stabbed in the face last October with a screwdriver by an intruder. The man never has been prosecuted, she said. "I can't even sleep ... knowing this man is still out there walking around."
Moser's Market in McLaughlin has been burglarized 16 times in less than three years. "Everybody wants us to keep our prices lower. How can we?" Shirley Moser said. "The cost of a window every time is $200."
Lois Buechler came home from work in mid-afternoon March 4 to find a man in her hallway. "I yelled at him, 'What the hell?' He came running out the back door," she said."
There's tremendous vandalism," said Merle Lofgren, who has published the Corson/Sioux County News-Messenger here since 1969. "There are hundreds of windows broken in McLaughlin. You can't leave a car set along the highway without somebody coming up and breaking a window out of it." Last year, four businesses and a church were broken into in one night, he said.
"Indian people are as much victims as white people," Lofgren said. "Elderly Indian women are afraid to go out of their houses at night and afraid to stay in their houses. They lock their doors. There's an atmosphere of fear. People are afraid."