Police calls drop in 2012, but no less ‘interesting’

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Police calls were down in Elk River in 2012, but that doesn’t mean all was quiet on the home front.

Elk River firefighters fought a house fire at  421 Rush Ave.  on Sept. 6. Star News file photo by Henry Griner

Elk River firefighters fought a suspicious house fire at 421 Rush Ave. on Sept. 6. Star News file photo by Henry Griner

“Although our calls for service were down, we had some very interesting calls last year,” Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe said in his annual report to the City Council Monday, Feb. 4.

He listed five notable incidents in 2012. They are:

•Tire slashings: There were multiple tire slashings last winter resulting in thousands of dollars of damage to tires. The slashings began around The Home Depot and progressed through the business areas in that part of Elk River. “The person then went to Wal-Mart and stole a knife, as he broke his knife puncturing tires,” Rolfe said. From there the suspect went to an apartment complex, slashing additional tires. “One of our officers tracked the person over a mile through the snow to an apartment building where, fortunately, they had an operating video surveillance system,” Rolfe said. Police identified the suspect and arrested him.

•Aggravated assault: This incident unfolded when a person with a knife jumped into a car at Wal-Mart, threatened a woman and then fled. “Our officers got to the scene promptly and apprehended that suspect,” Rolfe said.

•Rush Avenue house fire: Three people were ultimately arrested after a suspicious house fire on Rush Avenue was determined to be arson. Rolfe credited the “very diligent work” by Elk River Police Department investigators and the state fire marshal’s office.

•Robbery: Two suspects were arrested in what Rolfe described as a very high profile home invasion robbery. “That incident underscores the importance of cooperation between law enforcement agencies,” Rolfe said. “The Dakota County Drug Task Force broke that case for us. They and the other Dakota County departments went above and beyond what’s expected of them to help us clear that case.”

•BP convenience store robbery: A break led to the arrest of a suspect in that armed robbery. “We don’t have a lot of armed robberies in this city,” Rolfe said. “We have a pretty good rate of apprehension.”

He noted that there was at least one arrest in each of the five notable incidents.

“We put resources on these serious calls when the calls happen,” Rolfe explained. “We will pay overtime to officers to continue working a call or an incident when it’s fresh. We get better results that way. If we need to put multiple officers on, we do it. I think that’s the way to do business.”

In other news, Rolfe said a camera system that the department got through a grant from Great River Energy has cleared up several graffiti incidents.

He also noted that the department’s police reserves volunteered 2,171 hours in 2012 — the equivalent of more than one full-time position.

The department’s police chaplains responded to seven call-outs and participated in two events, Rolfe said.

There are five trained volunteers in the chaplain corps, which was formed several years ago. “They help us on death notifications, on suicides, and on any other traumatic incident that may occur in the city where they can offer some support to the victims, … to the officers,” Rolfe said.

Fewer calls in 2012

Overall, there were 20,451 calls for service in 2012, compared to 20,707 in 2011. Rolfe doesn’t think the drop is statistically significant.

The number of Part 1 or more serious crimes dropped from 705 to 619 while Part 2, or less serious crimes, increased from 1,624 to 1,774, Rolfe said.

Meanwhile, most traffic-related police activity saw an increase last year.

The number of DWIs, accidents, speeding incidents and semaphore violations in Elk River all increased over 2011. The good news is there were no traffic fatalities last year, Rolfe said.

The number of seat belt citations dropped.

“I’m hoping that the message is getting out to the public to wear their seat belts,” Rolfe said.

The department participates in two state-funded county-wide operations that focus on enforcement in certain areas like DWIs and seat belt use. The programs are called Toward Zero Deaths and Collision Reduction And Safer Highways (C.R.A.S.H.).

Sherburne County is one of Minnesota’s 13th deadliest counties for impaired driving.

“We take it very seriously,” Rolfe said.

Awards

Police department employees won a number of awards in 2012, including:

•Officer Brian Boos, Lifesaving Award, for pulling a woman from the railroad tracks as the Northstar train approached.

•Officer Adam Bebeau, First Place Region 12 K9.

•Officer Mike Suchy, Blue Max Award, which Rolfe said is one of the department’s highest awards and recognizes excellence in job performance. The recipient is selected by the department supervisors.

•Support Services Supervisor Michelle Masica, Chief’s Award. The recipient is chosen by the police chief to honor an employee for exceptional job performance.

The department also gave out four letters of commendation and 18 unit citations.

Traffic incidents in Elk River, 2011 and 2012

2011         2012

DWI                                    127           155

Accidents                            459          472

Speeding*                        1,569        1,728

Semaphore violations*    348          380

Seat belt citations             329          298

*citations and warnings

Source: Elk River Police Department

(See next week’s Star News for more information about other city activities in 2012.)

 

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