North Branch crime down  in 2019

While the individual statistics varied, the amount of crime reported in the city of North Branch went down in 2019, according to North Branch Police Chief Dan Meyer. During the Jan 14 city council meeting, Meyer gave his annual police activity report to the council, with a discussion of certain statistics.

Meyer began the report by telling the council the city currently employs 12 sworn officers, including himself. By position, there are two patrol sergeants, one investigator and eight patrol officers, with one of those officers splitting half of his time on patrol, with the other half serving as the North Branch Area School District’s Student Resource Officer. Additionally, three volunteer police reserve officers have volunteered over 440 hours for the year.

Meyer said that this total puts his staff back to the levels it was back in 2010. 

“We’re grateful we are back up to that level,” Meyers said.

In total, the department handled 13,007 calls for service in 2019, which is less than 100 more than in 2018, Meyer said. In addition, the department issued 675 citations and made over 250 arrests.

However, while the total number of calls was slightly up, the calls for what could be considered “crimes” was down. 

Council member Kathy Blomquist highlighted the number of thefts reported, which was at 131 in 2019, down from 170 in 2018. While not spoken about during the meeting, the summary list presented to the council also showed a decrease in child protection/neglect, damage to property and domestic assaults. On the flip side, assaults were up by eight and drug use was up by 11.

In general, Meyers said there wasn’t much “out of the ordinary” within the report.

“We did see some increases that are some of our driving complaints,” Meyers said. “And extra patrol, motorist assists and parking complaints – which, as our population grows, we get more roads – that’s going to continue to increase.”

The council found interesting that the number of traffic stops was “substantially less than in 2018” (1720 versus 2155). 

“I would have thought that might have been higher with the whole hands-free law,” council member Kelly Neider said. 

“We have been down two officers since October,” Meyers explained. “So that kind of skewed the numbers.”

Council waives snowplowing fee

Also at the Jan. 14 council meeting, the council heard a plea from resident Daniel Kaiser asking for leniency regarding a $170 fine that was imposed on him for not properly removing snow from the public sidewalk that runs along the side of his house. According to city ordinance, residents must clear snow from public sidewalks adjacent to their properties within 48 hours after the snow stops.

According to Kaiser, as a first-time homeowner, he was unaware of the ordinance. In addition, he didn’t see the violation notice that was hung on his seldom-used front door until it was too late. Finally, he said that since receiving this notice “the first thing I do as soon as I get home (after a snowfall) is to make sure the side of my house is shoveled.”

After the council quizzed Kaiser and city staff about the timing of the violation notices, plus the time and costs associated with the city removing snow, Public Works Director Shawn Williams suggested the council forgive the fee provided Kaiser continues to clear his sidewalks per the ordinance for the remainder of the winter.

Council member Brian Voss made a motion based on Williams’ suggestion, which was passed unanimously.

“I hope we don’t see you back here the rest of the year,” Mayor Jim Swenson said in conclusion.

Council awards official newspaper to County NewsReview

In other action, the council awarded the official newspaper designation for 2020 to the County News Review. While the official bids of the News Review and Isanti-Chisago County Star were just one penny different, the council opted to go with the lower-circulated newspaper partially due to the council having designated the ECM Post Review, which in April merged with the Isanti County News to create the News Review, the previous two years.

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