by Dennis Dalman
Although calls to the Sartell Police Department increased considerably in 2016, that doesn’t mean crime is up seriously, according to Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes.
At the April 10 city-council meeting, Hughes presented a meticulously detailed annual report for 2016. Other city departments presented annual reports, too. For more on them, see stories in upcoming issues of the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader.
The major reason why calls for police service are up, Hughes said, is because Sartell continues to grow both in population and in commercial activity.
Reportable complaints to police in 2016 were up 7.2 percent compared to 2015. Reportable crimes are the ones the city must report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its compilation of nationwide statistics. Non-reportable incidents, which tend to be minor violations or calls for assistance, were up by 14.5 percent.
Between 2010 and 2016, initial-complaint reports to the police increased by 45 percent, but such an increase was consistent with the city’s population and activities growth during that same period, Hughes told the council.
The Sartell Police Department is comprised of the police chief, deputy police chief, two patrol sergeants, two school-resource officers, nine patrol officers and one crime investigator.
There are also three full-time clerical staff.
Hughes said he is proud of the city’s 13 volunteer reserve officers. Together, they worked 3,608 hours, saving the department/city about $90,000.
“They’e a huge asset to us,” Hughes said, noting how reserve officers help at special events, checking houses when people are on vacation, doing traffic control and all kinds of other miscellaneous fill-in tasks when necessary.
Hughes said he is also proud and grateful for the many contributions via checks, cash, grants and donated items that help community-policing programs continue. Last year, about $30,000 was contributed, as well as items such as police radios, food for special events and other needs.
Council members told Hughes they are strongly supportive of the police department’s community-policing approach. Hughes agreed it’s an important component in keeping the city safe. Community-policing means an emphasis on personal contact among police officers and residents to build bonds of mutual trust and cooperation to strengthen public and personal safety. Such programs include Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, school-liaison officers’ work, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, Cookout with Cops, Police Activities League for children, vehicle child-restraint safety demonstrations, Bike Rodeo, Neighborhood Watch and many other outreach programs and services.
The council encouraged Hughes not to hesitate to inform the council when the department has new needs.
Hughes said he and department personnel are constantly trying to find a balance of priorities at times when staffing is tight. They shift schedules for flexibility when needed and try to put immediate needs in front of those services that can wait.
Council member Mike Chisum asked Hughes if there is an increase of opioid drug use as in other areas of the nation.
Sartell is seeing an increase in opioid abuse, as well as use of other illegal drugs, Hughes responded. The good news, he added, is more officers are better trained to find contraband drugs quickly, including knowing how to find them during traffic stops or in dwellings.
The council thanked Hughes and all the personnel on the police department for doing a consistently excellent job of keeping the public safe in Sartell.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.