Published February 13 2013
VIDEO: Fargo chief seeking more officers as crime stats, service calls increase
Personal crimes jumped 17 percent and property crimes increased 13 percent last year over 2011, but both categories were near the five-year averages, Ternes noted.
“I think you’ll find that the data indicates that Fargo continues to be an incredibly safe community,” he said.
The Police Department received 55,584 calls for service in 2012, up more than 4,000 from 2011 and a 20 percent increase since 2008, according to year-end crime data presented by Ternes during a press conference at City Hall.
The department has 145 sworn officers, about 90 to 95 of whom are assigned to patrol. There were times last year when 15 or more patrol officers were out because of injury, family medical leave or other factors, Ternes said.
“I think we need to have no less than 150 police officers to adequately police the city today. It gives us the chance to be proactive, much more proactive than we’re capable of doing right now,” Ternes said, adding he’s not oblivious to the fact other city departments also need additional resources.
Lt. Joel Vettel said the increased demand on officers’ time likely contributed to a decline in the number of arrests last year to 7,632, a five-year low and down 8 percent from 2011. Also, more investigations resulted in long-form complaints to prosecutors instead of physical arrests, he said, again citing the increased workload on officers running from call to call.
Other highlights from the data:
- Arrests for driving under the influence dropped by 110, to 1,017, which Ternes said was still “far, far too many.”
He said the decline was probably because the department was short-staffed for much of the year, not because of fewer drunken drivers on the roads. He said police would continue to be “very, very aggressive” on DUI enforcement.
“I still think we have a lot of work to do on this particular issue,” he said.
- The city saw a 10 percent increase in serious crimes, categorized as Part 1 offenses, which include homicides, gross sexual imposition (GSI), robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, theft and shoplifting.
Ternes said one concerning statistic was a 71 percent increase in GSI offenses, from 31 to 53.
“For our community, that’s substantial,” he said, adding that rape often goes unreported. He said police are still trying to understand the factors behind the increased number, a “great majority” of which involve acquaintances.
- Less-serious Part 2 offenses such as drunken driving, disorderly conduct and drug possession were up by 0.4 percent.
Total offenses increased by 3.5 percent.
Ternes said he was “pleasantly surprised” by that increase, which would have been higher had police not refocused efforts based on crime trends from early in the year.
He said that while he would have preferred to see offenses drop, “to find ourselves still below that five-year average is an indicator that crime remains in check in the city.”
- Despite a rash of bank and convenience store robberies that garnered a lot of attention, robberies decreased by 5 percent last year, from 47 to 42.
Burglaries increased 14 percent, from 383 to 437, but were still below the five-year average of 454. Fifty-eight percent of burglaries in 2012 were residential in nature.
“Property crime continues to be the most predominant crime issue that we’re trying to address in the city,” Ternes said.
- The number of traffic crashes and citations both fell last year, by about 9 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Ternes highlighted the fact Fargo had no fatal alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2012.
- The percentage of crimes solved by the department, called the clearance rate, remains “well ahead” of the national average, Ternes said.
All of the clearance rates for specific Part 1 crimes were within 10 percent less or more of last year’s rates, including a 31.4 percent clearance on vehicle thefts, 38 percent for robbery, 21.9 percent for burglary, 58.4 percent for GSI, 75.2 percent for aggravated assault and 43.6 percent for theft.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528
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