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Published February 23 2012

Forum editorial: One cloud on crime horizon

There are at least two ways to look at the 2011 crime rate statistics from the Fargo Police Department. One is that the police are doing an exceptional job keeping the city safe. The other is that Fargo’s traditional sense of community and the civility that is vital to that sense are as strong as ever. Surely both factors – and more – contribute to the good numbers.

Overall crime was down 6 percent last year, Chief Keith Ternes reported Wednesday. There were slight upward bumps in a few specific crime categories, but the broad crime picture continues to be relatively bright. The 2011 statistics are especially heartening because overall crime was down 11 percent the year before. The trend is good. It confirms that as cities of Fargo’s size go, Fargo is among the safest in the nation.

That being said, Ternes highlighted one of the city’s ongoing societal/crime failures: drunken driving. Among all crime categories, DUI arrests were up the most – nearly 30 percent, or 252 more than the previous year. Despite education and enforcement efforts on several fronts, drunken driving remains a serious threat to the safety of Fargo residents. And keep in mind: Arrest numbers show only those drunken drivers who were caught. The number of drunks behind the wheel certainly is far higher.

Police can only do so much in the way of checkpoints, increased patrols at known drunk-driver hot spots and education. Sending the right message about drunken drivers requires broader community support, including from the peddlers of alcohol, whether brewers and distillers, wholesalers, retailers or pub owners. That’s a tough call when tens of millions of dollars are spent each year on advertising that suggests there is no way to have fun in the sun, get a hot date or enjoy a sporting event without lubrication from booze and beer.

But despite the DUI uptick, which is serious, Fargo residents and visitors should be heartened by the 2011 crime numbers. It’s a safe city. The numbers confirm the police are doing the right things to keep it that way.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.