January 9, 2013

City police set new records for arrests

By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer

It comes as no surprise that the Watford City Police Department (WCPD) was busy in 2012. The WCPD dealt with a major case of counterfeiting, running out of space in the McKenzie County Jail and everything in-between.
Slade Herfindahl, Watford City chief of police, keeps meticulous records of the activity within his department and the numbers from 2012 show jumps in every category.
Calls for service rose from 3,940 in 2011 to 6,385 in 2012, an increase of 62 percent. The number of case reports reached over 2,300. Reported offenses, which include everything from murder to shoplifting to drug and weapon violations, rose 122 percent. The most common offenses were vandalism, drug or narcotic violations, assault and larceny. Prostitution, theft and weapon law violations were also prevalent offenses.
Arrests rose 110 percent. From August to November there were more than 50 arrests a month. The most common arrest made in 2012 was for driving while under the influence with 248. Two instances of negligent manslaughter occurred this year, along with 69 assault offenses. Statutory rape rose more than 200 percent.
“The WCPD handles close to one DUI a day,” says Herfindahl. “We also have a large number of arrests dealing with drugs, prostitution and gun violations.”
There were 189 motor vehicle crashes, up from 140 in 2011, which was an increase from the 73 crashes in 2010. More than 450 parking citations were issued, which is included in the more than 4,600 total citations for the year.
“We are averaging 17 calls for service a day,” says Herfindahl. “The biggest thing for us right now is having enough officers.”
But having more officers means finding more housing, and with quality, affordable housing slow in coming to Watford City the WCPD is feeling the growing pains like so many others.
“I am very excited about the Wolf Run project,” says Herfindahl. “That will really help us with our housing issues.”
Wolf Run is a planned development just south of Watford City Elementary School. It will include housing for police officers, as well as other city, county and school employees.
But even with the incredible rise in Watford City’s crime rates, Herfindahl expects it.
“When you look at all the annexations, building and population growth, an increase in crime’s going to be there too,” explains Herfindahl. “But I feel we have been very productive in dealing with the change. For example, we have been working very closely with the bars in town to reduce the number of bar fights. I believe we have done a great job in dealing with those and reducing such incidents.”
In 2012, the WCPD added both personnel and equipment to its arsenal, including three new patrol vehicles, new rifles and one new officer. The WCPD also received a grant that will cover 80 percent of the cost for three additional patrol vehicles in the coming months.
2013 has already followed the growth trend so far. Surrounding New Year’s Eve, the WCPD made eight separate arrests. It is what Herfindahl refers to as “kick-starting the year.”
In order to keep up with all the growth, Herfindahl has already petitioned for four more officers to be added to the WCPD, which would bring the force up to 13 officers and one administrator. The WCPD is also working on adding in-car computers and license readers to all their vehicles and updating their firearms.
As the year rolls over to the next, Herfindahl expects further increases to what they saw in 2012, but he is proud of what his officers were able to accomplish.
“We have drastically stepped up our enforcement in narcotics,” says Herfindahl, which was an area that saw about a 120 percent increase. “We are very proud of that.”
And with a larger force and more technology coming in 2013, Herfindahl and the WCPD will continue to protect and serve.