By Matthew Liedke
A recent ranking by a real estate company revealed that Wahpeton is statistically the fourth safest city in the state of North Dakota, to which city officials explained that the ranking is made possible due to strong cooperation.
“One of the most important things we have here is teamwork,” said Wahpeton Mayor Meryl Hansey. “That involves the Wahpeton Police Department, the Richland County Sheriffs Office, SEMCA, North Dakota State College of Science and also the good relationship we have with Breckenridge, Minnesota and Wilkin County law enforcement.”
The rankings, done by Movoto Real Estate, used methodology from the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI in 2012. Movoto then rated criteria such as the rates of murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and vehicle theft.
To continue having the strong ranking, Hansey explained that the city needs to continue providing law enforcement with the best equipment to handle whatever comes along.
Besides the equipment, though, the citizens themselves are the most important piece in keeping Wahpeton safe according to Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson.
“It’s our people, we have good people here,” Thorsteinson said. “The community standards are such that we make similar good people feel welcome.
“Our citizens don’t accept criminals. If citizens see something that is going on, they call in. The neighbors here look out for each other,” Thorsteinson continued. “That makes all the difference. I can’t give enough credit to the citizens, and we want people to call in, we are there to respond 24 hours, seven days a week for 365 days.”
Like Hansey, Thorsteinson also stressed the importance of people working together as a team.
“Over all the years that I’ve worked in law enforcement, I’ve seen some agencies that don’t know what the other hand is doing. Even sometimes within an agency, they don’t communicate as well,” Thorsteinson said. “But here, we coordinate with Richland County Public Health, the Public Works Department and the sheriff’s office.
“Like with (Richland County) Sheriff Larry Leshovsky, we always work together. I have total respect and confidence in him, and I feel that way about Breckenridge Police Chief Nate Harder and Wilkin County Sheriff Rick Fiedler,” Thorsteinson added. “You don’t always see that level of cooperation in a lot of places.”
“I have a lot of respect for the city staff, not just the police department, but our public works department, our street plows and the fire department. This recognition makes me proud of them,” Hansey said. “We go to bed at night and we can be comfortable in knowing that if there is a fire, our fire department will be there to take care of it. It’s the same thing with the police department, we can sleep knowing everything is safe.
“They’re all 24/7, too,” Hansey added. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas. The police department will be out there as well as our fire department and our street crews.”
“The important thing is for our residents to continue to say ‘we won’t tolerate crime. If there’s something wrong, I will call the police department,’” Thorsteinson said.
The full top 10 cities ranked in order by Movoto was:
Movoto’s research additionally concluded that North Dakota is the fourth safest state in the nation, behind Vermont, Idaho and New Hampshire and ahead of Maine.
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