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Beltrami clearance rate also high

BEMIDJI -- Never think the world is too big for one man to make a difference.

At least that's the lesson learned by Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp in light of crime stats released last week by his former employer, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"Having that fourth investigator there has made quite a big difference," he said.

What Hodapp called a "soft" hiring freeze, implemented by the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners and recently lifted, has allowed him to add another body to the agency's investigative unit. That, combined with encouraging deputies to pursue their own investigations, time permitting, are the reasons for a clearance rate of 65 percent, one point lower than Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin's department. Both make agencies their homes at the Law Enforcement Center.

"I was kind of pleased by what I was seeing on our numbers," Hodapp said. "Our overall clearance rate was up. ... I think it was below 50 percent in the past. One thing that we've done here is we've re-staffed our investigative unit, from three back up to four. That, and we encourage our deputies to follow through on their investigations, which has resulted in a lot more clearance by arrest.

"If you look at other sheriff's offices our size, at least, their averages are the same as ours, or even less."

Hodapp's deputies serve a population of 30,137, according to the BCA. Similarly populated counties include Isanti, with a population of 32,359 and a clearance rate of 46 percent, Itasca (35,348; 65 percent), Crow Wing (38,753; 38 percent), Chisago (24,112; 76 percent) and Becker (23,959; 38 percent).

But, while the data on last year's crime throughout the state might be news to some, for Hodapp and other law enforcement agencies, it's something they work with every day.

"When this report finally comes out, we're already seven months into the new year. That's one of the things that frustrates me about this report -- the data is stale by the time we get it," he said.

Stale or already used by police.

"Sometimes we'll catch a burglar or a thief who's a one-man crime wave out there, and the reason we're able to get these people is because we have reports on the areas they've hit, or where they've been," Hodapp said. "We can run reports at a moments notice."

While putting thieves and other criminals behind bars is one thing, according to Hodapp, keeping them there is quite another.

"It's kind of amazing to me that you see some of these guys go to jail, and the crime rate just drops, but as soon as they're back on the streets, away she goes."

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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