By Derrick Knutson—
The city of North Branch was certainly no crime hotbed last year, according to the municipality’s police chief.
“(2011) was a pretty standard year,” North Branch Police Chief Dan Meyer told the council at its regular meeting Monday. “There really wasn’t anything significant at all in terms of fluctuations.”
He noted the amount of emergency calls were down from 2010.
In total, 851 felony-level crimes were reported last year. Police responded to 4,626 other calls for service throughout the year.
Theft was the most common major crime reported to the department – 269 reports – followed closely by a category labeled by the department as “criminal sex/family.”
A total of 174 violations fell into that category.
That number concerned Mayor Amy Oehlers.
She asked Meyer to explain what types of crimes garner that classification.
“That could be anything from rapes to some child maltreatment,” he said.
Oehlers then asked Meyer if the amount of sexually based offenses in the city last year was an average number.
Meyer responded, “It has gone up over the past few years,” but he couldn’t point to a specific reason why the number has increased.
“That’s worrisome to me, having that high of a number,” Oehlers said.
The discussion prompted council member Ron Lindquist to query Meyer about sex offenders residing in the city.
Meyer told Lindquist the city does not have any level 3 predatory offenders, but there are residents who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to lower-level sex crimes.
“We have quite a few other levels,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number.”
Meyer explained he didn’t know the precise number of level 1 and 2 sex offenders in the city because those offenders do not have to register with the municipalities they live in like level 3 offenders do.
“They are registered through the state, but they don’t have to register through us,” he said.
Rush Line Corridor update
Also during the meeting, council member Theresa Furman, who is the council’s liaison to Rush Line Corridor Taskforce, a group of more than two dozen elected officials from counties and municipalities studying transit improvements from Hinckley to the Twin Cities, gave an update about recent discussions of the group.
She said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is looking to construct a speed lane on I-35, south of Little Canada.
“Out east it’s called the I-PASS, but MnDOT would call it MN-PASS,” she said. “You would pay (to drive in the lane) depending on the time of day. You’d need two people in the car to use the lane.”
Oehlers said she understands the lane could be implemented by the state to raise money for other road projects, but she doesn’t agree with charging motorists to use the proposed lane. Furman agreed with her.
“I know it works in certain areas, but from my perspective when we pay for a road we pay for a road,” she said. “Now they’re (proposing) making us pay twice for it if you don’t want to sit in traffic.”