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Dickinson sees more fighting, fewer DUIs: Convenience stores propose beer-only off-sale license

There’s a little more crime in Dickinson — a 2 percent increase in service calls from 2012 to 2013 — and the Dickinson Police Department is working hard to solve and prevent crimes to keep rates low.

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Police Chief Dustin Dassinger presented the department’s 2013 Annual Report to the Dickinson City commissioners during a regular meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

While the increase in service calls — which will include any activity an officer performs — was relatively small, there were dramatic jumps in certain crimes and infractions.

There were more than 1,300 accidents in Dickinson in 2013, with 294 hit and runs and 52 injury accidents. There were no fatalities. February had the least amount of accidents and the most happened in December. More accidents occurred on Monday than any other day of the week.

“Because there’s so many accidents on a Monday, do people forget to drive over the weekend?” Commissioner Shirley Dukart quipped.

There were more than 7,100 traffic stops last year, a 4 percent increase over 2012. Traffic stops do more than slow down speeders, Dassinger said.

“That’s really a way how we find out who’s in our community,” Dassinger said. “That’s usually when we get criminal warrants, the people that are sex offenders and have failed to register within our community, and it really gives the law enforcement an idea of who’s actually on our streets and moving around our community at certain hours of the night.”

One of the biggest surprises were heroin arrests by the Southwest Narcotics Task Force. There were 10 in 2013 and none the previous year.

Methamphetamines continue to be an issue for the area and several drugs — cocaine, hashish, steroids, ecstasy, psilocybin, also known as mushrooms and LSD — all had less than 10 arrests by the Task Force in 2013 preceded by few or no arrests the previous year.

There was a decrease in some alcohol-related crimes. Minor in consumption cases dropped by four and DUI arrests dropped from 226 to 194.

“Time will tell if that has to do with the deterrents due to the new DUI laws in the state of North Dakota,” Dassinger said.

Other alcohol-related crimes saw an increase.

There was a 129 percent increase in disorderly conduct and fighting arrests from 2012 to 2013, many of which happened at bars.

“We have a lot of people in our bars at late hours and a lot of times there’s not enough elbow room in there for people to mingle,” Dassinger said. “Once you get a lot of people that consume alcohol, sometimes they make some poor decisions.”

Commissioners questioned whether local bars were obeying occupancy restrictions.

“Sometimes there’s not enough space and people bump into each other, and they’re not actually very polite sometimes,” Dassinger said. “Bars are busier than we’ve seen in the past and a lot of the occupants are males.”

Because of the increase in this type of activity, Dassinger advised against creating a beer-only off-sale license proposed by convenience store owners.

“My staff and I are personally against this,” Dassinger said. “We should not be making it more convenient for people to purchase even beer in a convenience store.

“Just because we don’t have beer in our convenience stores now doesn’t mean that we’re behind the times. We might be right on the money.”

Dickinson’s municipal code does not allow for the sale of alcohol in convenience stores, but state law does.

“We do know that this topic is one that will receive strong opposition,” said Jared Scheeler, The Hub Convenience Stores representative presenting to the commission.

No decisions were made about the proposed liquor license class, and the commission plans to hold a public hearing at a later meeting to find out the will of the citizens.

The Dickinson Police have been working with Dickinson State University to hire a sworn officer to be in charge of the DSU campus police. This position would be paid for by DSU, but would be a full-fledged police officer and not just a security guard.

No decisions were made, but commissioners were fond of the idea.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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