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Perception versus reality

Chad Thompson

I’ve been reading a lot of comments about the crime in Fort Dodge lately.

Some people are scared. Some people believe that Fort Dodge is a dangerous place to live.

And given the violent nature of some recent crimes in the city, I am sympathetic to those fears.

But if I asked you how many homicides there have been in Fort Dodge in 2019, what would you guess?

Would you say 10?

Would you say five?

Three?

All those answers would be wrong.

There have been a total of two homicides in Fort Dodge in 2019, both having occurred within the last three weeks.

Both were tragic and senseless.

But this city seems to get a disproportionately bad reputation when tragedy strikes.

Let’s be clear — bad things happen in every single community. There was recently an attempted murder charge in Rolfe, a town of less than 700 people in Pocahontas County.

There have been 13 homicides in Des Moines in 2019.

I wish the numbers for all communities were zero.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Regardless, people seem to perceive Fort Dodge as somehow worse when bad things happen here.

And that’s wrong.

Way wrong.

No, things aren’t perfect. We have shootings here and fights here. We have people who probably shouldn’t be free and out on the streets here.

Are there ways to decrease crime and improve mental health in our community? Absolutely. And I believe the efforts of our Police Department, health care systems, school systems and concerned citizens can and are moving Fort Dodge in the right direction.

Certainly, there’s work to be done in those areas. The leaders in our community would tell you that.

But I truly believe Fort Dodge is on the way up.

The good far outweighs the bad here and that can be proven at almost every turn.

This is an extremely caring community. But only the people who live here really know that.

It’s one of the most welcoming communities you’ll find and I am more than proud to say that I live here. I work here.

This is one of those communities where when you need help, there are people there to answer. Whether that’s a neighbor, a friend or a co-worker.

We have 100+ Women Who Care, a group that donates to four charities throughout the year.

The Johnson family hosts a community Thanksgiving every year at Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota. The dealership also has the Bikes for Tykes program.

We have people like Troy Schroeder and Mitch Lunn rounding up coats for those who need one.

We have Socks for the Sole over at Shimkat Motor Co. with Community Health Center involved in that effort to provide socks for children who need them.

City Councilman Dr. Terry Moehnke has the Backpack Buddies program, which combats hunger for students in Fort Dodge by providing snacks on nights and weekends while children are away from school.

Charles Clayton and Athletics For Education and Success has continued the Operation Christmas program, a long-standing tradition of distributing toys, clothes and other items to families in need during the holidays.

We have Sherry Washington and her unbelievable spirit to help beautify and support Fort Dodge and the Pleasant Valley neighborhood all year long.

When times are tough, Washington is always there to remind us what unity is all about.

We have Ashley Vaala, who has found a new purpose in providing a sanctuary for homeless women and children in the area.

Steve Roe provides a safe haven for homeless men in the community.

And of course we have SOS, an organization the late Rev. Al Henderson championed to support public servants in our area. Henderson died Oct. 2.

I am no doubt going to leave out other good causes in this community, but you get the point. We have plenty of people and organizations here that are part of the solution. Not the problem.

It’s people and causes like these that make Fort Dodge special.

We can all honor Pastor Al by supporting each other and our community like Henderson did for so many years.

And in the wake of Henderson’s death I saw a community that rallied around each other.

One that stood strong.

That’s the Fort Dodge I know.

So instead of posting online about how bad Fort Dodge is, consider the context. Look at what’s happening in other cities throughout this state. Look at what’s happening in other states across this country.

Really take a look at all that’s happening here.

Fort Dodge is far from perfect. And unfortunately bad things do happen. But let’s not forget the good.

When you consider perception versus reality, Fort Dodge is in a way better spot than you might think.

Chad Thompson is city editor of The Messenger