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Report: Crime up overall in city of Willmar, largely due to theft

WILLMAR -- Data from the Willmar Police Department's annual report show a 3 percent increase in overall crime in the city in 2009. Due to an increased number of thefts, serious crime increased 5 percent last year.

Police Chief Jim Kulset presented the report to the City Council at its recent meeting. In an interview last week with the Tribune, Kulset noted that violent crime -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- dropped almost 18 percent in 2009. There were no murders in the city in 2009, 19 rape cases, four robberies and 32 aggravated assaults. Comparatively, in 2008, there was one murder and 26 rape cases, seven robberies and 33 aggravated assaults.

Crime statistics show that the 2009 numbers are the lowest since 2004, when 47 violent crimes were recorded, he noted.

In 2009, there were 772 serious crimes, which include the violent crimes plus burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson, and 1,293 so-called "less serious" crimes, such as misdemeanor assaults, forgery, fraud, vandalism, driving while impaired, disorderly conduct and the like.

By comparison, in 2008, there were 733 serious crimes and 1,272 less serious crimes.

In 2009, there were 629 theft incidents, up from 570 in 2008, and 130 forgery incidents, up from 58 in 2008, which accounted for much of the increase in serious crime. There were also slight increases, from 128 to 135, for misdemeanor assaults and from 37 to 48 for disorderly conduct.

The statistics were drawn from analysis of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data for the city, using the FBI's uniform crime report categories.

The city of Willmar continues to have an overall crime rate per 100,000 residents that is comparable to other, similar-sized cities in the outstate area, the chief said.

"Generally, we compare favorably," Kulset said. "We have some challenges too," including identity theft, credit card fraud and cyber crime.

The city's officers responded to 20,564 calls for service in 2009, less than 1 percent fewer calls than the 20,754 received in 2008. The months with the highest call volume continue to be May, July and August.

Leading categories of calls included "all other complaints," which is a category that includes complaints that don't fit anywhere else. An example is a call that a neighbor's garbage is blowing into the citizen's yard. Officers responded to 1,145 calls in this category, 792 dog and animal calls (not dog bites), 714 theft calls, 569 suspicious person calls, 563 loud party/neighborhood disturbance, 542 harassment/threats calls and 528 motor vehicle crashes involving property damage.

Officers also made 6,960 traffic stops and issued 220 citations for no proof of insurance, 195 speeding tickets, 137 citations for no valid driver's license, 127 citations for driving after revocation and 109 citations for driving after suspension. Officers made 115 impaired driving arrests, including four first-degree, 15 second-degree, 43 third-degree and 70 fourth-degree arrests.

A total of 996 adults were arrested by city officers in 2009, an 8 percent decrease, and 245 juveniles were arrested, a 25 percent decrease.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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