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Stark County 2021 year-end update underscores overall decline in crime

Crime statistics from the Stark County Sheriff’s Office show substantial declines in most categories of crime. Lt. Eldon Mehrer addresses end-of-year data and increased presence in school zones.

A patrol vehicle of the Stark County Sheriff's Office is pictured.
According to crime statistics from the Stark County Sheriff's Office, Stark County experienced a significant decrease in crime rates in 2021 compared to the previous year.
(Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)

DICKINSON — The Stark County Sheriff’s Office recently unveiled crime statistics for 2021, and the data shows an across the board drop in the number of offenses.

Plummeting crime rates

“Well, I guess the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is if you look at crime overall, and that's the most serious crimes such as thefts, burglaries, assaults, domestic violence; in every one of those categories, we saw a decrease,” Lt. Eldon Mehrer said. “In the area of burglaries we saw a 55% decrease.”

Mehrer said he believes these statistical improvements are a reflection of the department’s philosophy and approach to building relationships with the people of Stark County.

“We’ve worked really hard at getting to know our communities, becoming more involved within the communities and having transparency with the community. I think that pays dividends on the criminal side. You gain the trust of your community,” he said.

Of the 13 statistical categories, five saw increases. They included total calls for service which were up 14%, traffic stops increased by 26%, warrant service were up 10%, public relations (PR) stops rose at 21% and school zones climbed to 54%.

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PR stops entail a wide range of activities and functions such as safety talks at schools, public events, visits to local businesses and bar checks.

“We’re engaging with businesses, we’re engaging with citizens I would say, in a positive manner,” Mehrer said.

Community resource officers

In 2021, there was an increase in the number of school zone appearances. Mehrer noted that this was a positive development.

“We’ve made it a priority within our agency to be sure that our officers are paying close attention to the schools. We want to be sure that in the morning when school is starting and in the afternoon when school is coming out of session, that we’re having a visible presence,” he said. “By the same token, we spend time in the middle of the day walking the hallways, interacting with students and doing safety presentations at various times and events within the schools.”

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office has two school resource officers, one for the east and another for the west side of the county. They serve Richardton-Taylor, South Heart and Belfield Public Schools. Public schools in Dickinson are served by the city’s police department.

The number of juvenile offenses dropped from 71 in 2020 to 29 in 2021. In prior years, most of these crimes were being committed at schools or school related functions, Mehrer added.

“I think having those school resource officers within the schools really has a deterrent effect on those offenses. I think our deputies developing those relationships with students is helpful,” he said. “Those school resource officers are really community resource officers because they're not just spending time in the schools. They’re spending time at sporting events, at community events — those types of things — and really engaging with our citizens.”

Other crime

Although the decrease in crime is worth celebrating, Mehrer emphasized that domestic violence is still problematic in Stark County. Victims are encouraged to seek help by calling the sheriff’s office at 701-456-7610 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.

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An overview of the 2021 crime statistics from the Stark County Sheriff's Office is pictured.
The top calls for service for the Stark County Sheriff's Office show an increase of 14%, which include traffic stops, warrant service, paper service, public relations stops, school zones, thefts, motor vehicle thefts, burglary's, assaults, domestics, juvenile offenses and accidents.
(Contributed / Stark County Sheriff's Office)

Mehrer also pointed out that theft and burglary happen the most when people let their guard down.

“Folks need to be making sure that they’re keeping their homes secured. So many things get delivered to people’s homes nowadays. Making sure that those packages are secured, if people have the opportunity to put up any type of camera system that would be beneficial,” he said. “If we do have a case and we’re able to capture any type of video evidence, that’s extremely helpful in solving those types of cases. Again, burglaries where people are breaking and entering into homes, those are crimes of opportunity.”

Vision Zero

He said the rise in traffic stops may be attributable to North Dakota’s Vision Zero campaign. As part of this program, the state pays the overtime of officers who volunteer extra hours to police speeding, seatbelt use and impaired driving.

According to visionzero.nd.gov , 240 North Dakotans have died in crashes involving alcohol over the past five years. On average, these types of crashes account for 42% of annual vehicular fatalities in the state, while 29% are caused by speeding or aggressive driving.

Appreciating sheriff’s deputies

With Sunday’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee underscored how much he appreciated his staff with a message in a Facebook post.

“I absolutely have to take a moment to recognize my amazing staff on this law enforcement appreciation day. I am able to wear this smile because of how good you make both myself and our department look every day,” Lee wrote. “Our success as a team isn’t possible without the things you do and who you are to our amazing community. You guys crush it and I love and appreciate each and every one of you.”

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