The Braham Police Department has never provided 24/7 patrol coverage to the city. Through the years, there was a gap of two to three hours between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. during the weekdays, and any crimes reported were covered by the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office.
Though this created a lag time for response, it wasn’t a concern for the department until recently.
Crime reported during this time had been relatively small; however, statistics began to show an increase in 911 calls within the past decade.
In 2009 total calls for the month of January were 224, but in 2019 they rose to approximately 2,500. With the call loads increasing, it was more and more difficult for the Sheriff’s Office to fill in during the uncovered time frame.
Police Chief Eric Baumgart said he had serious concerns about the lack of 24/7 coverage, but when he was hired he made a decision he felt benefited the city more.
“I had an inkling based on our calls for service that we were kind of missing the boat, but the choice of having 24/7 coverage was weighed against having an investigator on our team,” he said.
The decision was made that hiring Lt. Kevin Stahl as Braham investigator was a necessary asset to the community, and it’s a choice Baumgart stands behind.
When City Administrator Angie Grafstrom was hired earlier this year, she expressed concerns regarding the lack of coverage during the morning hours. A discussion between her, Baumgart and the city council commenced with an agreement that more police staff needed to be hired. As they were putting the plan together, a series of events took place during the early morning hours of Nov. 4 that expedited the process.
Morning incident prompts change
At approximately 6:15 a.m. Baumgart was driving to work when he received information regarding activity on the east side of town. A vehicle parked outside a private residence was reported and that a male, dressed in black, was acting suspiciously.
A 911 call was placed to the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office. Their arrival took 10-15 minutes. When police arrived on the scene, it was determined that there was an active warrant on this individual and an arrest was made. Later, a vehicle was found with a female in it along with illegal drugs and paraphernalia The vehicle was impounded.
Along with a series of unrelated automobile break-ins during early morning hours, the council and the police department were forced to take action.
At the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, Police Chief Baumgart and Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk were in attendance. Fielding questions from the council and citizens, they mapped out the need for adding another officer to the force.
Caulk said, “With two to three deputies available during the morning hours, the response time was lengthy. It was an unfortunate series of events.”
Within 24 hours of the meeting, Baumgart was able to fill the coverage by adding an additional hour to his schedule enabling him to be there to back up Lt. Stahl and the other members of the force.
Other hiring and scheduling will be completed by the beginning of 2020.
Baumgart said, “There will always be one or more police officers in Braham at any given hour, day and night, 24/7, 365. This includes coverage for the city and investigations being done by Lieutenant Stahl. Lt. Olson is now the deputy chief, and his role is managing officers in my absence and all internal affairs for the police department.”
There will be overlapping coverage during peak hours of activity, as well as the additional staff.
Ross Benzen, a dispatcher at the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office summed it up, “Braham has the same crimes as every other town and community. We need to react in the same way.”