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Stutsman County Communications Center traffic down in 2020

Statistics indicate the number of calls for service to first responders in the county were down nearly 2,000 from the previous year.

Dispatch
The Stutsman County Communications Center saw less calls last year possibly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Keith Norman / The Sun

The number of calls for service dispatched by the Stutsman County Communications Center continued a downward trend, according to Jerry Bergquist, emergency manager and 911 coordinator for the county.

Statistics for 2020 indicate 26,521 calls for service compared to 28,318 for 2019 and 30,241 in 2018.

A call for service is recorded any time the communications center sends a first responder to an event or situation.

Bergquist said the biggest factor in the decline was likely the coronavirus pandemic.

"People traveled less," he said. "People were staying at home."

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Jamestown Chief of Police Scott Edinger said the trend was toward fewer calls even without the pandemic.

"We'd probably be down a couple hundred," he said. "Not like we were."

The Jamestown Police Department had 13,429 calls for service in 2020 compared to 14,618 in 2018 and 17,050 in 2018.

The biggest declines came in the spring of 2020 during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Everybody was afraid of things," Edinger said. "They just weren't calling."

While the Stutsman County Communications Center dispatches about 40 first responder agencies, only three, Jamestown Area Ambulance, Jamestown Police Department and the Stutsman County Sheriff's Office, have more than 1,000 calls during the year. About 21 agencies were dispatched less than 10 times in 2020.

Chad Kaiser, Stutsman County sheriff, said calls for his department were down about 1,000 in 2020 compared to 2019.

"I would definitely attest that was all due to COVID," he said. "Prisoner transports and everything else were all down."

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Jamestown Area Ambulance saw one of the few increases in call volume with 2,142 calls in 2020 and 1,980 calls in 2019. Andrew Berkey, operations manager for the ambulance service, said the increase was not entirely related to the coronavirus pandemic.

"COVID impacted us some but not as much as you'd think," he said. "Our run volume has been increasing every year."

Overall, the number of calls for service has increased almost every year for the past decade in Stutsman County.

Bergquist said the call activity in 2020 was comparable to 2011 with every year between 2011 and 2020 showing an increase.

"Every year there seems to be a little bit more traffic," he said.

Bergquist said cellphones continue to be the most common device for calling 911 and the Stutsman County Communications Center. This can contribute to an overwhelming duplication of calls in the event of a highly visible accident.

"In one incident we had 70 phone calls in relation to one jackknifed truck on Interstate," he said. "The dispatcher had to go through the details with everyone to make sure it was the same accident each was reporting."

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