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More police officers here: Jamestown Police Department may consider adding three in 2015

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More police officers here: Jamestown Police Department may consider adding three in 2015
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

The Jamestown Police Department may be looking to add three new officers next year, according to Jamestown Police Chief Scott Edinger. The increase would likely be included in the 2015 budget, which would be considered this fall.

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The increases are a response to concerns raised by law enforcement officials in Jamestown and Stutsman County to a possible influx of workers on several large construction projects, said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager.

“There is no question in our minds it will affect us because there will be more people,” he said.

The $150 million Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant is already under construction. The $350 million Courtenay Wind Farm has announced an early spring construction start. An announcement on the planned $1.8 billion CHS nitrogen plant is anticipated in February or March. Construction of that plant could also begin this summer.

“From July on we could have three major projects in process at the same time,” Bergquist said.

The number of construction workers at each project will vary as the work progresses. The total number of workers on all projects during construction could be as high as 2,000, according to information released by the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. when the CHS project was announced.

The Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office was given approval to add one deputy to its staff of eight officers during a Stutsman County Commission February meeting. The position is partially funded by an oil impact grant of $12,500 from the state of North Dakota.

“We had requested all the equipment for two guys,” said Chad Kaiser, Stutsman County sheriff. “Vehicles, uniforms and everything else came to about $138,000.”

Kaiser said the County Commission allowed the use of the money budgeted as a 25 percent match for the grant to hire one additional officer.

“It’s great we can get one,” he said. “Especially where we’re at — barely keeping up. What happens when things start happening out east (in Spiritwood Township).”

Edinger said law enforcement agencies are familiar with the problems associated with large numbers of construction crews.

“We’ve had a few opportunities to deal with larger construction projects,” he said, referring to 2010 and 2011 when construction was underway on the Jamestown Regional Medical Center and Spiritwood Station, the coal-fired generating plant at Spiritwood. “We definitely saw an increase in crime last time. We need to prepare for this because these are much larger projects.”

Edinger said officers dealt with more violent crime during the previous construction booms.

“There were nights we went from bar to bar dealing with bar fights all night,” he said. “There were some firearms and weapons involved also.”

The last time the JPD added personnel was in 1993 when the department went from 27 to 29 officers. In 1993 the department handled a total of 7,000 calls, Edinger said. A call is defined as any incident an officer is called to or any action an officer takes as part of an investigation or patrol.

“We’ve tried to be more efficient,” he said. “In 2012, we handled 17,100 calls. In 2013 there was a dip because of the way we counted calls but it was still 16,661 calls.”

Edinger said the department stopped counting officers leaving their patrol cars and doing foot patrols as calls in 2013.

“Even with that change we’ve had a 10,000 call per year increase and we’re still at 29 officers,” he said.

The JPD has also been more proactive on drunken driving, seat belt and drug task forces, Edinger said.

“Unfortunately, what we’re predicting is we will not be as proactive on nuisance calls in the future,” he said.

Kaiser said the shortage of officers does not allow for patrols and other law enforcement activities designed to reduce crime.

“Right now we’re a reactive department that goes where we’re called to go,” he said. “We hope to move to the proactive side.”

The Jamestown Police Department is attempting to be more flexible, Edinger said.

“There are so many unknowns right now,” he said. “We will have to make adjustments as changes happen and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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