Fort Dodge Police Department: Statistics tell the tale

Crime continues to decline

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Abram, the Fort Dodge Police Department’s new
canine, locates a hidden stash of drugs in a vehicle  during a demonstration with his partner, patrol officer Troy Kleppe during the 11th annual Night Out and Back to School Bash held at the Crossroads Mall in 2016.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Abram, the Fort Dodge Police Department’s new canine, locates a hidden stash of drugs in a vehicle during a demonstration with his partner, patrol officer Troy Kleppe during the 11th annual Night Out and Back to School Bash held at the Crossroads Mall in 2016.

Serious crime in Fort Dodge saw a significant drop in 2016 as officers continue to help keep the city safe.

According to Police Chief Kevin Doty, as of late December, crime was down 23 percent in 2016 from the same point in 2015.

However, Doty said that’s just one piece of the picture.

“I would caution people to not look at one year’s data,” he said, adding it’s best to look at multiple years to see how the data is trending.

“Last year (2015) it was down a little bit, only 4 and a half percent,” he said. “It’s going in the right direction.”

But Doty also cautioned that a couple of incidents could change everything.

“You don’t want to get caught up that it’s way down or way up,” he said. “How is it doing over a number of years?”

The decrease in crime can be attributed to the department’s efforts at stopping certain types of criminal activity. Doty specifically cited the department’s work with the Fort Dodge/Webster County Drug Task Force in putting a stop to drug crimes.

“We’ve had 60 felony drug charges this past year,” Doty said. “Nine of those cases have went to the federal level and have either been charged or sentenced.”

Doty said that doesn’t necessarily mean 60 people were charged, and could also refer to that certain people are facing multiple drug charges.

He said the arrests are a collaborative effort.

“Our job in working these cases is to bring the best possible case we can to the prosecuting attorney,” he said, “whether that be the Webster County attorney’s office, the attorney general’s office or the U.S. attorney’s office.”

The prosecutors provide critical help in deciding what charges should be filed, Doty said.

“Their job is to move the case through the court system to a positive outcome,” he said. “Positive for victims and positive for the citizens of Fort Dodge and Webster County. It really takes all of us working together to make that happen.”

But the decrease in crime wasn’t the only highlight for the Police Department in 2016.

This past year, the department brought back its K9 program after a group of officers got together and recommended bringing it back.

With the city’s support, Doty said the K9 program was put into motion. So far the department has two dogs; a German shepherd named Abram and a Hanoverian hound named Hyde.

Eventually, Doty said the department would like to get a third dog.

Because the city hadn’t budgeted any money for the K9 program, Doty said the department has had to rely on community donations to help fund it.

And he said the community has been very supportive.

“I cannot say enough good things about the citizens and businesses in Fort Dodge and Webster County that have come to the table and said, ‘we like this idea and we want to support it and we want to give money to the K9 program,'” Doty said.

Donations are being collected by the Fort Dodge Police Foundation, an effort between the FDPD and the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.

Last year also meant a continuation of a series of community events the department began in 2015. These neighborhood picnics are open to the public and feature representatives from multiple law enforcement and public safety agencies.

They provide children and families a chance to interact with the officers and other rescuers.

“The whole goal of the neighborhood picnics is to foster a positive relationship between our officers and the citizens in the neighborhoods,” Doty said. “The feedback that I’ve seen from those efforts has been very positive.”

The department also started its Doing the Right Thing project, which also enforces positive behavior.

At random times throughout the year, officers will go out into the community and give money to drivers who are wearing their seatbelts.

Doty said the department has expanded this to include rewarding children for positive behavior as well.

“We basically printed cards that we gave to our officers and we encouraged our officers, if you observe young people doing the right thing, maybe being courteous, to the way they’re treating other people, whatever that might be, give them this card,” Doty said. “And that card entitles them to redeem it to get a small ice cream cone at the Dariette. We did that last summer and we’re hoping to do that again next summer as well.”

Other ways officers are getting involved in the community is by serving as volunteer coaches.

This past year, Sgt. Ryan Gruenberg, Officer Cody Harris and Reserve Officer Jon Morris all became volunteer football coaches for Athletics For Education and Success.

Doty said the officers received many positive comments from the children.

“One of those officers is also coaching, through AFES, for the basketball program,” Doty said. “That’s another positive relationship that we can have with the youth of the community.”

Harris also serves as one of the department’s school and community resources officers, along with Officer Joelyn Johnson. Doty said both Harris and Johnson have been busy with the after-school programs as well as getting involved in Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch.

Doty said he’s very appreciative of how supportive the community is.

“I think we live in a great city and I want the people to know that we think we have a great police department with dedicated officers and civil staff committed to one goal,” he said, “and that goal is to provide the best service possible to our citizens. It is all of us working together, both the citizens and the police department and our public safety partners, to make Fort Dodge the safe community that we want it to be, that we need it to be and that we know it can be.”

Looking ahead to 2017, Doty said the biggest goal is to secure body cameras for the department.

Right now, the department is in the middle of applying for a grant it hopes to use to buy some of the cameras.

“That grant would pay half of the cost of the camera itself,” Doty said. “It will not cover the cost of computers or storage for the data, but just for the camera units themselves.”

There is no money budgeted for the body cameras, and Doty said his proposed 2018 budget only includes money for replacing the server, so the department is hoping to receive the grant.

Doty said having body cameras would be beneficial to the department.

“Our hope is that it’s going to capture what is said and what is done by the officers and the citizens they’re interacting with,” he said. “When citizens see that, OK, I’m being recorded, our hope is that people act better, so that it’s not a case where we have to go hands-on with people because it’s going to capture everything that’s said and done, or a lot of it.”

This year will also be a major one for Doty, as it will be his last with the Fort Dodge Police Department.

Late last year, Doty announced that he will retire at the end of December 2017.

But before he retires, Doty said he wants the department to continue its level of service that it has been providing to the city of Fort Dodge.

Part of that is by increasing the skills of the officers.

“I think it’s important to develop good leaders and give them opportunities to get training before we expect them to take on some of those new goals,” he said. “My hope is that, by the time I leave, that we have people in place that will lead this department well into the future.”

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