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Wendy Reuer, Published April 01 2012

Police boost efforts to curb Casselton juvenile crime

CASSELTON, N.D. – Cass County sheriff’s deputies admit they have room for improvement when it comes to communicating with residents here.

So, after a recent spree of vandalism and burglaries, the county boosted deputies’ visibility, assigned a detective to work solely on the roughly 20 open cases and sponsored a “crime forum” between residents and deputies.

Residents say the efforts seem to be helping, but as summer vacation approaches, parents may need to step up.

Cass County sponsored the March 14 crime forum to open lines of communication and to dispel rumors about some of the crimes, said sheriff’s Capt. Mitch Burris.

Six burglary cases – of the 20 open cases at the time – occurred at one home. In one case, the sheriff’s office was given a picture of a possible suspect, but the photo was poorly lit and showed only the back of a person’s head.

“You couldn’t even tell if it was a male or female, and people were asking why we hadn’t caught them yet,” Burris said.

The morning of the crime forum, Lisa Boerder returned to her home-based day care and discovered a nearly 6-foot phallic image spray-painted on her home. Her house, along with a number of vehicles, had been vandalized. Two juveniles from neighboring towns were later arrested.

Boerder said since the crime forum, she hasn’t had a problem with juveniles cutting through her yard like she did before, but she is worried about what will happen when school is out of session for the summer.

“I think the parents really need to get more involved,” Boerder said.

Dawn Peters, who works in the Cass County Juvenile Court, said 16 Casselton juveniles were on probation in March, a high number for the town of about 2,300.

“The numbers aren’t good, and I’m hoping that is just an aberration,” said Mayor Edward McConnell.

“I don’t think it’s an indictment of the town,” he said. “I’m going to blame their parents; I don’t think they’re being supported real well by their parents.”

Contracting with county

McConnell said the city began contracting with the county for law enforcement more than a decade ago.

Two deputies, one on a day shift and the other on a night shift, are assigned to Casselton. Along with the detective-assigned Casselton cases, other deputies swing through town during their shifts.

McConnell said recent efforts by the sheriff’s office are noticeable.

“They even busted a few for tobacco. They haven’t done that in a long time,” he said. “They’ve been trying to get more involved with the kids. It’s gotten quieter around here.”

McConnell said there is no plan for the city to return to an in-house police department.

“The county is so much more cost-effective,” he said. “The deputies don’t always like to do what a small-town cop will do, but overall, I’d have to give them an ‘A’ for their job performance.”

Burris said communication between law enforcement and residents has improved since the crime forum. He said the sheriff’s office has been getting more calls from Casselton residents, which is a good thing.

“We wanted the people to get involved and take back their town,” Burris said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530