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Dave Olson and Brittany Lawonn, Published December 16 2008

Blizzard didn’t deter crime

Winter storms tend to keep criminals at bay, but that wasn’t the case this weekend for Fargo and West Fargo police.

“In this case, they kept us fairly busy the whole time,” Fargo police Sgt. Jeff Skuza said. “This was fairly atypical.”

West Fargo police dealt with several domestic disputes and fights during the storm, Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said, adding perhaps the forewarning to the blizzard may have played a part.

“Maybe they were able to stock up on the alcohol so that when they were at home they were able to drink and then not get along,” he said.

But across the river in Moorhead and Clay County, the storm was relatively quiet, crime-wise.

Assistant Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe said that could be due to the blizzard’s relatively short duration.

“When there’s a long time of being cooped up, sometimes you get people who are sitting at home and drinking and using drugs and you get more domestics, that kind of stuff,” said Monroe, who said no one was cited in the city for weather-related activity, such as going around traffic barriers.

The same goes for Clay County, said Sheriff Bill Bergquist, who recalled a case from a few years ago when someone who disregarded a traffic barrier had to be rescued.

Bergquist said the man was charged with DUI – and the man was later ordered to pay restitution for the cost of the rescuing him.

On Sunday, police helped several individuals who got stuck while trying to drive through West Fargo, including one who left the experience in handcuffs.

“One of them happened to have a warrant,” Reitan said.

Officers also discovered three people riding around with alcohol and marijuana, he added.

While Sunday’s blizzard shut down many businesses in the area, but not all of them.

Asked whether he had an opinion about stores staying open during bad weather, Bergquist said, “It helps when they close,” adding that he encountered one man Sunday who became stuck near Mac’s on Highway 10.

The man told Bergquist he was heading to Mac’s because he needed tools.

“Which totally blew my mind,” said Bergquist.

The store was open from noon to 3 p.m.

Monroe said police like to see businesses and customers use common sense during storms.

“I think they (businesses) should shut down if it gets bad, but it kind of depends on what that store is.

“If it’s like a convenience store – if people need gas, propane or diapers – that’s understandable, as long as people have the means to get out and about,” said Monroe.

Readers can reach Forum reporters Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541 and Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555