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Sunday, May 1, 2016

SL police set records for calls, miles, youth arrests

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Storm Lake Police officers saw a decrease in several key areas of violent crime such as sexual abuse, homicide, robberies, burglaries and assaults in 2008, but saw troublesome increases in societal crimes like drug trafficking, suicide attempts, domestic conflicts, child abuse, vandalism and a record high for youth truancy.

The department set new records for responses and patrol miles in 2008; saw adult arrests increase and juvenile busts at a new record level; and saw a sharp increase in auto accidents but a decrease in injuries from accidents.

Storm Lake Police officers responded to almost 50,000 calls for service, according to the newly-released annual report - an average of more than 136 calls a day. The total is an increase of almost 25 calls a day from 2007, and by far the highest total since records began to be recorded in the 1990s.

Police vehicles patroled over 230,000 miles in 2008, thousands more than in any other year, and close to the distance from the earth to the moon. Officers cranked out another 1,200 miles on bicycle patrol, and almost 1,300 hours on a T3 three-wheel scooter in the new Park Rangers program.

All of that activity doesn't necessarily translate to more crime in the city, however, according to Public Safety Director Mark Prosser, who noted that after working short handed for an extended period, the department was finally fully staffed for a portion of 2009, allowing for more officer-initiated activity.

The city saw an overall decrease in the "uniform crimes" for the first time since 2005. These crimes include many of the most serious and violent types of incidents, and are used to track crime trends.

Some of the areas where Storm Lake saw a crime decrease from 2007 to 2008:

* Sexual assaults - 4 cases reported in 2008, down from six, and half the eight cases averaged per year earlier in the decade.

* Murder - None in 2008, the first year without a killing in the city since 2005. There were no attempted murder or kidnapping cases.

* Forcible robberies - There were no cases for the first time since records began, after seeing three cases in each of the two previous years. Burglaries declined sharply from 126 in 2007 to 94 in 2008.

* Assaults - 90, down from the 101 in 2007 that was the high point in the records.

Crimes in which considerable increases were seen in 2008 over 2007 in Storm Lake:

* Suicides and suicide attempts - 20, up from 15 and an all-time high.

* Stolen vehicles - More than doubled from 3 to 7, but far below the levels of a decade ago, when 32 car thefts were seen in 1999.

* Vandalism - 312 cases, up from 250, and a new record high.

* Fights and disturbances - 566 cases, up from 527, and a new record high.

* Child abuse - 30 cases, the most since 2005. There were 27 cases in 2007. The low was 20 in 2000; the high 46 in 2004.

* Domestic clashes - 193 cases, up from 157, and a new high.

* Animal calls - 649, the most seen since 2001, up 63 cases from 2007.

* Truancy - 358 cases, a startling increase from 267 in 2007 and the fifth straight year of increases. This is by far the highest number ever recorded.

Other areas of cases - arson (3 cases), theft (336), missing persons (68) and transient assists (43) saw little change.

Drug cases have police officials concerned. The number of new drug cases in Storm Lake rose from 85 to 121 from 2007 to 2008.

"During 2008 Storm Lake detectives saw a marked increase in the amount of drugs being seen, used and sold in Storm Lake. Detectives worked drug cases where marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, khat, ecstacy and heroin were being sold to informants as well as undercover police officers," Assistant Chief Todd Erskine said.

Federal, state, county and multi-agency task forces worked with officials locally and in networks sprawling across multiple states, taking thousands of dollars worth of drugs off the streets. Local investigations led to drug sources as far away as Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Officers investigated a locally rare case of a person disseminating pornographic images to a minor, made arrests in a prostitution case, and one of a BVU student assulting and taking nude photos of another student that was unconscious.

There were a number of stabbing incidents in the city over the past year, and detectives broke up a car burglary ring that stretched from Ames to Fort Dodge.

There was a massive increase in the number of charges filed by police - 2,069 in 2008 compared to 1,154 in 2007. Again, a shortage of officers in the previous year could be a factor. Tourism developments also resulted in more outside traffic to the city.

Adult arrests saw the highest total since 2005, juveniles the highest total ever recorded, 616, up nearly 60 percent from 2007.

Drinking-related arrests were most common for adults, with 449 public intoxication arrests, 118 OWIs and 164 liquor law violations. There were 200 arrests for assault, 189 for drugs, 163 for disordely conduct, 72 for theft, 53 for forgery and fraud, 48 for vandalism, 25 for child endangerment, 15 for sexual assault, and one arson.

No gambling arrests were made in the city.

In juvenile arrests, drinking again led the woes, with 77 liquor violations, 11 public intox, but only two OWIs. There were 58 for disordely conduct, 51 theft, 37 burglary, 23 for assault, 24 vandalism, 14 for drugs, one arson.

Auto accidents were up, perhaps reflecting higher tourism traffic, with a record high 512 2008 crashes compared to 466 a year earlier. The number of injuries in accidents, however, fell to a record low of just 12, down from the previous record of 19 a year ago. Injuries have fallen steadily from a high of 60 in 2000, as seat belt compliance, auto safety standards, and road safety improvements have grown.

In Operation Clean Sweep, as police staff is used to contact property owners about nuisance or safety conditions on property, unshoveled snow or uncut grass, junk or broken-down cars, 961 calls were handled in 2008, the highest total since 2005 and the second-most contacts ever. Of the 961 people contacted in Operation Clean Sweep, 941 voluntarily cleaned up their situations. Twenty others were cited after refusing to resolve nuisance situations.

The K9 Unit, with Officer Findy, a five-year-old German Shepherd handled by Officer Travis Anderson, saw an active season after being sworn in last September, replacing Officer Brad Thiele and Siska, who left the department in June. The K9 unit is credited with seizing over $14,000 in illegal narcotics, performing nine alarm responses, five tracking cases, 11 building searches, 79 drug searched, 208 arrest assists, and one crowd control situation.

The department saw massive amounts of training involving virtually every officer. A highlight is graduation from D.A.R.E. instruction programs by School Resource Officer Bauer, who will take over teaching of the anti-drug-and-alcohol program in areas schools, formerly led by Pete Erickson who retired from the department.

Despite all of the activity, the police department actually saw a budget reduction in 2008, at $1,695,000 - down from over $1.7 million in 2007. The budget is up about $340,000 from a decade ago.

Prosser said that Storm Lake Police relish their role in helping to ensure that the city continued to be "a premier place to live, work and play" - and said officers are thankful for "incredible support" they experience from the people of the community.

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