August 14, 2013

City sees shift in types of crimes

By Olivia Sundeen    
Farmer Intern

Law enforcement officers in Watford City have had their work cut out for them in the last few years.
With an influx of people, close quarters housing, increased traffic, etc., crime has begun to be more prevalent than ever in the community of Watford City.
“At this time it is hard to compare statistics since the year isn’t over yet,” stated Watford City Police Chief Jesse Wellen.
According to Wellen, call-outs from January to July in 2012 totaled 3,391. In 2013, call-outs in those months increased to 3,439.
“Last month, we had a 100 more calls than last year at this time,” stated Wellen. “But this month we are lower than last year, so overall, it appears our call-outs fluctuate, but remain on the higher side for this year.”
Currently, Wellen has been working with nine officers, but has just hired a tenth.
Wellen believes the number of officers is necessary to handle the increase in crime.
“We are midway in our year,” stated Wellen. “Currently, we are seeing bigger increases in certain crimes.”
According to Wellen, DUIs are increasing non-stop. In 2012, there were 130 DUIs, and for 2013, there has already been 153.
 Along with that, traffic crashes seem to be through the roof. However, the statistics are similar to last year with numbers coming in at 91 compared to 93.
“We have had six traffic crashes inside the city limits in one day,” stated Wellen. “That is insane.”
Driving with a suspended license is one crime that has seen a big jump from 65 to 91
Property theft, drug violations, bar fights, vandalism and domestic violence are also rapidly increasing.
Wellen believes they all are somehow related to the oil boom. For example, domestic violence has increased from 19 in 2012 to 48 in 2013.
“Domestic violence calls have especially increased since the oil boom,” stated Wellen. “Someone works 12 plus hours a day. They come home, often to close quarters, and begin to take their frustrations out on loved ones.”
Wellen’s assessment is that all types of crime have increased overall.
“We have spikes,” stated Wellen. “Bar fights for example. We thought things had mellowed out and then we had eight calls last weekend.”
And while Wellen would like to think that the amount of law enforcement activity will level off in the final six months of 2013, he knows that is just wishful thinking.