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On patrol: Killdeer police see sharp spike in crime

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Killdeer police Chief Chris Fenstermaker discusses the annexation of the Bi-Hutch trailer park into Killdeer city limits, which contributed to an increase in calls for service for his department.

KILLDEER — With oil boom growth and the recent annexation of land into the city, Killdeer police have seen a spike in police calls for service this year.

Officers responded to more than 700 calls for service this year, up from 334 last year, 184 in 2011 and 168 in 2010.

After hearing of the increase, Killdeer City commissioners approved hiring another officer for the department, which is currently comprised of Chief Chris Fenstermaker and two officers.

Fenstermaker said crime has increased, but has also gotten more severe since he started with the department in 2009.

“We weren’t dealing with the stuff that we’re dealing with now,” he said.

Bar fights are more dangerous — people are more likely to have weapons — and drunk drivers, a huge part of the increase, are more drunk.

Dunn County Assistant State’s Attorney Pat Merriman said he has seen a “dramatic increase” in the breath alcohol levels of drunk drivers, who are often way over the legal limit.

Along with more people moving to the area because of the oil boom, the city’s limits have stretched — it has annexed more than 365 acres in the past few years, including the Bi-Hutch trailer park and the 2 7/8 bar.

“This is all ours now,” he said.

Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker also brought up the annexations, of Bi-Hutch trailer park and the 2 7/8 bar, as reasons for the increase in calls.

His department and Fenstermaker’s work closely, they both said.

“We always got their back,” Coker said. “I consider them part of the team.”

Drugs and domestics

Like elsewhere in the Oil Patch, much of the increase in crime is in drug activity.

Merriman said when he started in the county earlier this year, he was surprised — “for such a small population there’s a significant increase in drug activity,” he said.

“There’s a lot of money out here and when you have a lot of money and you have a lot of people with time on their hands and a lot of open space, you get serious drug problems,” he said.

Part of the problem is with where Killdeer and Dunn County lie relative to oil activity and growth.

“Our problem here in Dunn County is probably overspill from McKenzie County and from Dickinson — we’re kinda caught between the rock and hard place,” Merriman said.

Another growing crime sector is domestic violence, a result of more people — and more people living in close quarters.

Fenstermaker said with the lack of affordable housing options, domestics arise more frequently out of disputes from people living in close quarters, like trailers.

In such living conditions, things are more likely to “set people off,” he said.

Merriman said the change in types of crime has changed the way of living in Killdeer.

“There’s just a rougher crowd hanging around,” he said. “It makes for a stressful situation for the local population.”