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Crime rates decreasing in West Fargo as city asks for sales tax to bolster police force

West Fargo police released their annual report this week.

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WEST FARGO — As the city asks voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for public safety, West Fargo's calls for service and crime rates are on a downward swing.

West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness said Monday, April 18, that there was an 8% decrease in overall crime compared to 2020, and a 10% decrease in property crimes since 2020. Property and drug crimes also trended downward, he said.

"We remain significantly below the six-year crime average," Otterness noted.

The department responded to 28,660 calls for service in 2021, a number that was down from 2020 when the department had a record 30,161 calls for service. It was also less than the 30,122 calls for service in 2019 and 29,967 in 2018.

However, as he prepared the West Fargo Police Department's annual report, he noted a slight increase in crimes against persons.


"We attribute most of those to some national trends related to COVID," Otterness said, adding crimes such as simple assaults were up.

In 2021, the department was authorized to employ 13 staff and 69 officers, plus volunteers. Otterness noted that, like many employers, his department has struggled to recruit new employees.

The department hired four new police officers in 2021, promoted Lt. Pete Nielson to assistant chief of police and promoted longtime employee Cody Beilke to lieutenant.

Otterness said the police investigations division reviewed nearly 1,000 cases.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the department was one of the few public offices that continued to offer fingerprinting services, and 1,045 fingerprints were processed. Otterness said many of those were professionals waiting on licenses to teach and offer medical assistance while the pandemic was ongoing.

Of the department's $9.5 million annual budget, salaries made up about $7.9 million, cruisers and equipment cost about $326,400 and technology accounted for about $209,500.

Otterness reported officers drove more than 500,000 miles over the year and used more than 41,000 gallons of gas.

Online survey companies including, MoneyGeek, have named West Fargo the "Safest City in North Dakota" in 2021, 2020 and 2019 by using crime statistics as a basis for the rankings.


The 2021 annual report was dedicated to Lt. Adam Gustafson, who died Tuesday, May 18, from a heart attack.


Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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