Sheriff reports on response to calls in northern Beltrami

Last year, the average response for a call for a deputy to Benville Township was just over 25 minutes, but it doesn't worry Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp.

Last year, the average response for a call for a deputy to Benville Township was just over 25 minutes, but it doesn't worry Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp.

Benville Township, above the Red Lake Reservation in extreme northwestern Beltrami County, had only 11 calls for service for the year, with response ranging from 6½ minutes to nearly 32 minutes.

"It's nothing outlandish -- it's not a terrible amount of time," Hodapp told county commissioners last week during their board work session.

Hodapp gave a report of calls to northern Beltrami County in response to Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks' allegation that that deputies are seldom seen "up north" and urges Hodapp in hiring new deputies that they be required to live in northern Beltrami County.

In coding calls, 27 northern Beltrami County townships make up what is considered the "northern district" for deputy patrol, Hodapp said. Response times might be longer, but the number of calls is also much lower, he said.


Benville had the longest average response time for 2006, but Hodapp also showed that Steenerson Township had a 21-minute average response with seven calls, Langor Township 17 minutes with 39 calls and Eland Township 13 minutes, with 17 calls.

Langor Township is near Blackduck, which had 366 calls and an average response time of 5 minutes.

But Hodapp said that emergency calls, such as for a car crash, are handled with urgency.

"On average, people in Benville wait 25 minutes for a deputy to respond, but if it is an emergency, we have agreements with Grygla and Marshall County to send a deputy over," Hodapp said.

But Fairbanks noted that the agreement comes with an $8,000 price tag, paid to Marshall County by the county.

The city of Blackduck had the most calls, but the next lowest, Kelliher, had 214 calls and an average response time of 5½ minutes. Hines had 170 calls and an average response of 5 minutes.

But most areas in the northern district had fewer than 50 calls for the year, totaling 1,617 calls, 12.6 percent of the department's calls. For instance, Konig Township had three calls, Minnie five and Spruce Grove six.

By comparison, Hodapp said the southern district had 8,991 calls and the city of Bemidji 1,557 calls involving deputies, with a county total of 12,802 calls that include calls to other counties and walk-in traffic.


"The problem is being pro-active," said Fairbanks, whose district includes most of the northern district townships.

The county five years ago appropriated $90,000 from a fund for northern projects for a northern deputy, including squad car and equipment. "Since then, we've been giving $70,000 a year," he said. "That money is supposed to be spent in that area. We are not pro-active up there."

While Hodapp said the northern district is being adequately protected and response times acceptable, Fairbanks said more of a daily presence is needed with deputies actually living in northern Beltrami County, not just making patrols when assigned.

It's great that the Sheriff's Department helps fund a substation in Blackduck, and that the Kelliher schools are interested in a part-time school liaison officer, Fairbanks said, "but they should be living there and working there."

Hodapp, when hiring a new deputy, "should station him in that area, live there and be part of the community," Fairbanks said. "We've lost that."

The new sheriff -- Hodapp took office last month -- said he reviewed patrol logs and found at least two deputies spend considerable time in the northern area, investigate and work that area.

"George Brook and Scott Wherley ... are two guys doing a great job up north and patrolling up there," Hodapp said.

"People don't see them up there," said Fairbanks.


"It is a vast area, how often will they cross paths?" answered Hodapp.

Fairbanks said a deputy's presence has been especially lacking during high traffic times with anglers to Waskish and Upper Red Lake.

A chance may come, Hodapp said, if the Kelliher schools wants a school resource officer and pays two-thirds to three-fourths of the salary. But County Administrator Tony Murphy said that would open the door for Bemidji schools to request a similar arrangement.

"We provide primary law enforcement to Kelliher, while the city does that for Bemidji schools," Commissioner Ron Otterstad said.

Hodapp said he's meeting with Kelliher school officials later this month, and invited Fairbanks to attend.

"I appreciate you're helping," Fairbanks said.

On another matter, Hodapp updated commissioners in the implementation of an automated pawn shop process, as provided by a new ordinance almost a year ago.

Under the ordinance, pawn shops with transactions over a certain level are now required to electronically transmit data which is kept in a Twin Cities-area network that shares the information with others in the network in an attempt to find and trace stolen goods.


With the city of Bemidji having a separate but similar ordinance, Hodapp said the county ordinance only affects about 10 businesses. "Only two or three have enough sales to go online, and they are already set up to do that."

While the county has no real history yet with the program, Commissioner Jack Frost said that "the city pawn shops are less than pleased with the Twin Cities firm."

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