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By Archie Ingersoll, Published March 06 2014

Reports of burglaries, robberies, assaults spike in Fargo

FARGO – Chief Keith Ternes said he and the rest of the Fargo Police Department are not pleased with the city’s 2013 crime statistics, which showed a 2.5 percent uptick in the number of offenses reported.

“We’re going to have to go back and renew some of our efforts in terms of crime prevention,” Ternes said Thursday during a news conference at City Hall.

The 2013 increase in crime followed a 3.5 percent rise in 2012. Despite these numbers, Ternes said residents should not be alarmed by what he described as relatively modest increases in crime over the past two years.

“I think you can attribute at least some of that to the fact that Fargo is growing,” he said.

Ternes said that as along Fargo’s population keeps increasing, the city will have to add officers to keep pace with the growth. He said his department recently hired three recruits, bringing the city’s force to 149 officers.

Of the statistics released Thursday, three that stood out were burglaries, which spiked 49.4 percent; robberies, which went up 30.9 percent; and aggravated assaults, which jumped 24.7 percent, according to police.

‘Embrace prevention’

The city had a total of 1,342 assault cases, and 242 of those were aggravated assaults, which involved serious injuries or weapons. For Ternes, one of the more startling and concerning statistics was that 67 percent of all assaults and 50 percent of aggravated assaults stemmed from domestic disputes.

“It certainly continues to suggest that we have a fairly significant domestic violence problem in our community,” he said. “I won’t go so far as to say that that’s something that’s unique to Fargo.”

Ternes called the increase in burglaries substantial. He said a small number of burglars were responsible for many of the break-ins and that some arrests had been made.

With property crime at a 4-year high in 2013, the chief encouraged residents to help thwart criminals by securing their homes, garages and cars.

“If we could get people to really embrace prevention, locking up their stuff, not making it so easy to be a target of property crime, I really believe we could cut those crimes in half,” he said.

Regarding robberies, Ternes said there’s a public misperception that convenience store holdups are happening weekly. He refuted that notion, saying that of the 55 robberies in 2013, seven were holdups at convenience stores and one was at a bank. So far this year, there have been five business in the city have been robbed.

Calls for service

Last year, Fargo police responded to 62,836 calls for service, which was a 5-year high and a 13 percent increase over 2012.

Ternes said all these calls for service have been consuming time that officers once had for pulling over drivers. To back up this claim, he cited the numbers of traffic citations and drunken driving arrests, which both dipped to five-year lows in 2013.

However, Ternes said he’s not losing sleep over this correlation because the number of car crashes remained fairly stable and the city had no traffic fatalities.

In 2013, the department made 6,067 arrests, which was a five-year low. Ternes attributed the drop, not to a decrease in crime, but partly to a trend of city and state’s attorneys successfully prosecuting cases without police needing to make arrests.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734