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Police Dept. growing to meet increased crime

Posted 12/24/13 (Tue)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

This year has brought many changes to the Watford City Police Department. Former Police Chief Slade Herfindahl resigned in January of this year, and Jesse Wellen, one of his officers, took over as Chief of Police for the department.
Wellen states that the department struggled with turnover before Herfindahl’s resignation, so since taking over, he has been working to keep the department stable and hire more officers. The addition of officers to the department has added man-power and coverage to an increasingly-growing city, which will help keep the city safer. But, according to Wellen, that does not necessarily mean crime statistics will decrease.
“Everything is on track with last year in terms of crime statistics. And if there is not too much turnover this year, statistics will likely be increasing,” states Wellen. “We see offenses increase, because there is more staff. Therefore, we can do more calls and make more arrests.”
Wellen states that since he was hired on under Herfindahl in 2011, he has seen the police department double in size. But since Watford City is continuing to grow, his department needs to as well.
“Developments bring in more people,” states Wellen. “Either people who are moving in from out of the area or people who are currently living in campers in the county that will move into a home in the city limits.”
Either way, as Watford City grows the city’s police department continues to serve more people, as well as monitor more homes and businesses.
At the beginning of 2013, Wellen states his department was doing more with less. Then during the year, he hired on three additional officers, but he was still short-handed during their training period.
“Hiring more officers helped, but they still had to double up with other officers in the department until their training period was over,” states Wellen.
Wellen states that he is hoping to hire three additional officers in the coming year. And that with nine fully trained, seasoned officers and three in training, he will have more coverage for the city of Watford City, especially overnight.
“We run two officers on the overnight shift, and I am on-call every night,” states Wellen. “It will be nice to have more help.”
According to Wellen, traffic citations were down overall from 2012 to 2013. But he attributes that to a lack of personnel at the beginning of the year. One citation category that is keeping up with last year’s numbers, however, is DUIs.
“Last year we had 365 DUIs and this year we have 355 to date,” states Wellen. “We are averaging one DUI per day.”
Another reason for a lower amount of citations has to do with the fact that a traffic stop takes 10 minutes, where criminal cases can take hours. And the number of criminal cases his department handled this year went up from 984 in 2012 to 1,012 in 2013.
Wellen states that his department saw increases in burglaries/breaking and entering complaints from six in 2012 to 24 in 2013. And last year, there were six counts of credit card/teller fraud, which rose to 13 in 2013.
“This is an instance where someone stole someone else’s credit card or card number and attempted to use it,” states Wellen.
The Watford City Police Department also handled 45 cases of simple assault in 2012, while the number of cases increased to 56 in 2013.
“Simple assaults can be anything from a bar fight to a domestic violence call,” states Wellen. “And oftentimes we see the same people or are getting called back to the same spot.”
Along the same lines, Wellen states that cases of intimidation were up from four in 2012 to 25 in 2013. Intimidation includes threatening behavior toward someone, and are usually bar-related.
Cases of theft are up this year with stolen property cases almost doubling from 14 to 24 in 2013. The amount of thefts from a building rose from 25 to 34 cases and there were two reported cases of theft from coin-operated machines.
One of the biggest jumps in theft during the past year was in motor vehicle thefts, which increased from 15 in 2012 to 25 in 2013.
“With motor vehicle theft, people are looking for anything with easy access,” states Wellen. “In one instance, a car was stolen and found near New Town completely stripped and everything of value gone. Another case involved a man who was running from police. He stole a car, ditched it and stole another one.”
Cases involving drugs, narcotics, disorderly conduct, and counterfeiting and forgery, are on track with last year’s numbers, according to Wellen.
Wellen says that with more officers, it will be easier to keep  Watford City safe in 2014 to catch indiduals who are breaking laws  in the city.