DICKINSON, N.D. -- Self-defense products are becoming a hot item among women in western North Dakota's booming oil patch, as a burgeoning population and the apparent abduction of a northeastern Montana woman have heightened fears about violence.
"My pepper spray, my stun guns, my handguns -- I can't keep them on the shelves," Dickinson pawn shop manager Raymond Gentry said.
"A year ago, where a handgun might stay in my case for two months, now I'm lucky to keep that gun in the case 48 hours."
Gentry and operators of similar businesses say sales of personal protection products started rising along with the region's population and have spiked with the arrest of two men on aggravated kidnapping charges in the recent disappearance of Sidney, Mont., high school teacher Sherry Arnold, who is presumed dead.
Ray resident R.H. Jungemann bought a key alarm at a recent home party that offered self-defense products.
"What happened in Sidney is a little too close to home," she said.
Jungemann, a jogger, also has a concealed weapon permit but said the key alarm is more practical.
"I'm not going to run with a pistol," she said. "This gives me a little feeling of safety, but not enough to let my guard down. I'm always conscious of the trucks in town."
Watford City Police Chief Slade Herfindahl said he has seen an increase in the number of women applying for concealed weapon permits since Arnold's disappearance. However, he and others in the law enforcement community say there has not been a documented spike in strangers committing crimes against women.
"I won't pooh-pooh things. There are a lot of scary-looking men around here, but they're looking for jobs, not women," Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching said. "I tell women to 'Live your life. Your brain is your No. 1 weapon.' They should have situational awareness."
Busching said the area is potentially more dangerous than it used to be.
"But are there rapes out on the sidewalks? No, there's not," he said.
Some, including Carolyn Perdue, no longer feel safe. Perdue said she plans to move from Ray to a Minnesota city this summer.
"I'm not going to stay in this circus," she said. "The hardest is having my security taken away. I don't like feeling afraid.
"Our world has changed," Perdue said. "It won't go back to being sleepy little Ray."