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Fargo police are fed up: Robbery, DUI arrests up in 2011 crime stats

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes talks Wednesday about the decrease in overall crime rates in Fargo. After more than a thousand drunken driving arrests last year, Fargo police are considering changing their message.

FARGO -- After making a record 1,127 drunken driving arrests last year, Fargo police are "fed up" and considering changing their message, Chief Keith Ternes said Wednesday as he unveiled last year's crime rates.

The number of DUI arrests jumped by 252, or 29 percent, over 2010's count.

For years, police and others have beaten the drum with campaigns and messages preaching the risks and dangers of impaired driving, Ternes said.

"So, for us to continue to tout that message almost seems like a waste of time," he said. "The new message that we're considering is that if you drink and drive in the city of Fargo, you will be arrested, period. You will end up in jail."

Ternes attributed the spike in DUI arrests to an ongoing emphasis on DUI enforcement and on the metro area's continued growth.

Fargo police responded to more than 50,000 calls for service last year for the first time in department history.

Overall, Fargo saw a 6 percent drop in crime last year. Ternes gave credit to the hard work of officers and also community members who aren't afraid to report crime.

"What makes that even more remarkable is that is on the heels of an 11 percent reduction in crime that we saw the previous year," he said.

The number of offenses reported dropped in all but two categories of serious crime.

Robberies jumped from 39 percent to 47 percent amid a rash of commercial holdups.

Ternes said police are taking a proactive approach, working with businesses on ways to prevent robberies and analyzing data to determine where to focus patrols.

He noted metro police have cleared nearly half of the commercial robberies committed since Jan. 1, 2011, and said police "have every confidence" they will solve the rest.

Ternes said that while he understands the public concern, the robberies should be put in proper context.

"It's not this out of control, high volume of robberies that I think people may have the perception of," he said.

Aggravated assaults rose from 159 to 182, a 14 percent increase that Ternes attributed at least in part to domestic violence.

A detective has been assigned solely to follow up on cases of domestic violence.

The number of serious crimes and minor crimes reported were at their lowest levels since 2005.

"Fargo continues to be an incredibly safe community," Ternes said.

Total crimes reported also were down by about 1.3 percent in West Fargo, according to 2011 figures.

Police issued 141 drunken driving citations, a 28 percent increase from 2010.

Vandalism reports were up 29 percent and reported drug violations were up 41 percent from 2010, but both were still well below figures from the early 2000s.

West Fargo Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said a new computer system may be responsible for some variations in the statistics.

Moorhead police plan to release their 2011 crime rates March 10.

Nowatzki is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.