January 12, 2011

City’s crime on the rise

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
Watford City’s population is growing, and with the increase in residents, the Watford City Police Department has also noticed an increase in crime.
“I knew we were busy,” says Slade Herfindahl, Watford City police chief. “However, when the year-end number came together, I was surprised to see that they were so high.”
For longtime residents of Watford City, it has become apparent that although this sleepy little community is still small, it can no longer be called sleepy.
“The number of crimes against persons has risen over 1,000 percent,” says Herfindahl. “That was the most alarming increase to me because those tend to be the most violent crimes, the ones that are the hardest for the police department to train for.”
In 2009, Watford City saw only three crimes against persons, while in 2010 there were 47.
“Crimes against persons include homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses and assaults,” adds Herfindahl. “Of the 47 crimes against persons in 2010, 39 of them were in the assault category. Although they are not all domestic disputes, we have noticed a definite spike in domestic violence cases during the past year.”
In the crimes against property category, Herfindahl notes that while Watford City did not report any robberies or arsons in 2010, there was an increase in thefts, especially vehicle thefts.
“Vehicle thefts are something that Watford City has not had to deal with much in the past,” comments Herfindahl. “However, this year there were five, and I take great pride in knowing that the police department was able to retrieve all five vehicles.”
In addition to solving all five vehicle theft cases, Herfindahl reports that his department had a 70 percent solvability rate for the year of 2010.
“A 70 percent solvability rate is especially good knowing that Watford City has had a large population increase,” adds Herfindahl. “I believe that part of the solvability rate is due to the department’s proactive approach to drug cases.”
With an increase from 15 drug cases in 2009 to 57 in 2010, and an increase from 32 cases of driving under the influence in 2009 to 83 cases in 2010, it is easy to understand why the police department is busy.
“For the most part, the crime rate throughout the year has been steady with some fluctuations or spikes,” adds Herfindah. “Due to the increase, the officers are not able to be as proactive as I would like. And there isn’t as much traffic control being done either, which is why we are working to add two new officers to the department.”
Two additional officers will bring the number of officers in Watford City to seven. A number that Herfindahl feels will help the department to be more proactive instead of reactive.
“I believe that the increase in crime comes from an increase in people,” says Herfindahl. “However, that doesn’t mean that all of our arrests are of new people. The majority of our cases involve people from North Dakota. I think it is simply a case of more people in the area equals more friction.”
Although Herfindahl feels that the first week of the year cannot be a barometer of how the entire year will go, he expects that the increased crime numbers will continue throughout 2011.
“These are changing times. People need to be vigilant,” says Herfindahl. “If you see it or hear it, I urge you to report it. We are all in this community together, and one of my goals in 2011 is to increase public awareness and community input. The Watford City Police Department wants to hear the community’s concerns so that we can do our best to serve the area.”