Valley City resident Bob Drake is worried about safety in the city, particularly about an increase in fights outside bars on weekend nights.
Drake addressed the Valley City City Commission during its regular meeting Monday, regarding the possibility of forming a citizen's watch that could assist police in patrolling fight-prone areas.
Originally, the commission agenda read that Drake proposed an armed citizen's patrol, which Drake claimed was a misunderstanding.
"I don't know what can be done, I'm just bringing it to your attention," Drake told commissioners. "I wonder if you guys knew, we lost 147 years of law enforcement experience in the last 18 months." Drake continued, wondering if this loss and the inexperience in new officers could be one reason for the increase. Drake also wondered why officers were leaving.
Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson later explained to commissioners that while some officers left for unknown reasons, several of them retired, including Mark McDonald, who retired after 17 years, Doug Kiefert after more than 20 years, and Andy Sather after about 20 years.
Valley City Mayor Bob Werkhoven told Drake that while losing experienced officers – who knew who the troublemakers were and whom people knew and respected –may have facilitated some of the increase in fights, but as new officers become more familiar with the area and the people, they will also be able to intervene before a problem erupts.
Thompson also explained that he spent time patrolling with officers on weekend nights and that a big problem is that victims of fights rarely want to press charges. With more cooperation from victims, more arrests could be made, Thompson said.
"I do have some reservations about an armed citizen's patrol," Valley City City Attorney Russell Myhre told commissioners. "I could not recommend that the city authorize this for a number of reasons." Myhre added that and increase in population and possibly the new smoking ordinance – because more people are spending more time outside – could be part of the reason for the increase.
Drake emphasized that he didn't have a definitive answer for the problem. "My intention was just to bring it up."
Read this story in Tuesday's Times-Record.