Gillette Syndrome, named by psychologist ElDean Kohrs after the town Gillette in Wyoming, is a term used to describe the social disruption that can occur in a community due to rapid population growth. Such disruptions usually include increased crime, degraded mental health, weakened social and community bonds, abnormally high costs of living, and other social problems.
The once miniscule communities of Western North Dakota are seeing their populations explode and virtually every resource from schooling to police to sewage completely overwhelmed. Criminality, prostitution, and homelessness are just a few of the new problems with which the communities face. Although it has been almost 150 years since the demise of the notorious, lawless gold rush town of nearby Deadwood in South Dakota, the people of Western North Dakota see themselves on the very same path and worry about their own fate as a future ghost town.
There has always been a trade-off for the people of North Dakota in that in order to financially benefit from what is beneath a resident’s land, they have to sacrifice a large portion of the surface used for grazing or farming. What is unique in North Dakota is that the farmers and ranchers who own the land surface often do not own what is below it: the minerals. These may be owned by a neighbor or someone far across the other side of the country. This schism in property rights leaves surface owners with very few of the economic benefits of drilling and absolutely no ability to forbid the extraction of these minerals.