January 26, 2016

Busy year for law enforcement

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

Despite the oil and gas slowdown in 2015, McKenzie County law enforcement officers stayed busier than ever. In 2015, McKenzie County deputies received approximately 18,630 calls for service, including state dispatch calls for service. Calls for service included any service that the public requested where an officer or deputy had to respond to the call.
And just from August to December of 2015, there were 13,526 phone calls to dispatch, 7,018 window visits, 2,964 e-mails, 546 assists with arrests, 1,032 assists with warrants, 8,697 inquiries, 429 assists with bonds, 671 assists with citations, 76 impounds, and 3,812 calls for service. These numbers only represented numbers for a five-month time period in 2015, and only those that dealt specifically with the McKenzie County Dispatch. Those numbers don’t represent State Radio Dispatch numbers.
“The phone calls represented just the public calling in, and that could really be for anything,” said Mike Schmitz with the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office. “The window numbers represented anyone that came up to the Sheriff’s Office window. Those could include general inquiries, requests for reports, the 24/7 program participants, etc. With the arrests and warrants, that’s when dispatchers assisted deputies. For example, when we had to have a female dispatcher go out and help with a female suspect.”
Because numbers weren’t ever really tracked before 2015, the numbers produced by the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office seem mind-boggling. However, corrections numbers have been tracked and are just as mind-boggling.
In 2015, there were 1,115 male inmates booked into the McKenzie County Jail, along with 234 female inmates, for a total of 1,303 inmates  in 2015. According to the Sheriff’s Office, inmates served 20,304 days in 2015. And according to Schmitz, the average length of stay for an inmate in 2015 was 15 days, with an average daily population in 2015 of 42 inmates.
“In 2015, we released more individuals arrested on Unsecured Bonds than were required to post a bond,” said Schmitz. “We’re actually letting more people out on Unsecured bonds, and according to the State’s Attorney’s Office, 50 percent of those don’t show up for their scheduled court date. Now the Sheriff’s Office has to put in more man power and money to go back out with a warrant to arrest those individuals. That was a surprising statistic to see.”
According to the report from the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office, the most inmates released on unsecured bonds was 80 in June, followed by 74 in January. Respectively, 62 posted bond in June and 38 in January.
Not only did the Sheriff’s Office provide new data and statistics for areas such as dispatch and corrections, they also provided data to show when law enforcement officers respond to calls for service, broken down from months of the year to days of the week to times of the day, and where at in the county they respond to their most calls.
McKenzie County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the majority of their calls for service in the months of October, November, and December. October and November were above 900 calls each month and December was right under 900 calls. The months they responded to the least amount of calls for service included January, February, and March, with right at or under 400 calls for each month.
“All I can say is it’s the holidays, Tis the Season!” said McKenzie County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Ficken. “There are many factors as to why those numbers are higher in the winter months, but those definitely seem to be our busier months.”
Sheriff’s deputies also have areas in the county where there are more calls for service than other areas in the county. The central area, which is the area right around Watford City’s ETA, produces the majority of calls for the Sheriff’s Office. From August to December of 2015, deputies responded to 2,991 calls to the central area of the county. The second highest area of call volume was within the Watford City city limits, which includes a combination of law enforcement agencies. And the third highest area of calls for service came from the northwest portion of the county, which is pretty much anything northwest of Patriot Fuels.
Interestingly enough, McKenzie County Dispatch gets most of their calls on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Sheriff’s Office can’t say with certainty why this is the case, but they have some reasons as to why they think this may be the case. Many people return home from a weekend away and notice items in their homes or garages missing. They check with their family, friends, and neighbors, and when they rule out all other factors, they call in to report theft and burglary.
“We do get a lot of theft calls after the weekends,” said McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger. “We can’t say with certainty why there are so many on these specific days, but we have our thoughts on why.”
Not only do McKenzie County deputies receive the most calls for service from the central, Watford City, and northwest areas of the county, but they also tend to get the most patrol cases and issue the most citations in the same areas.
To help work through the amount of dispatch calls, cases, and citations, the Sheriff’s Office has been able to add personnel to their various divisions over the last year, which has helped to better serve the county’s citizens.
“I’ve interviewed and hired the right individuals to properly manage the separate divisions in this agency,” said Schwartzenberger. “I have all the trust and confidence in my command staff to accomplish this mission. I’m openly transparent and my door is always open for anyone to come in, look at our numbers, and ask questions. I’m proud of the men and women that work hard every day to keep the citizens of this county safe.”