FAIRMONT - When comparing the police-to-population ratio in Fairmont with other Minnesota micropolitans, local law enforcement numbers stack up pretty well.
Based on 2010 data compiled by Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma, the city has 1.58 officers per 1,000 residents.
"We are right in the middle," he said.
The average for 22 rural Minnesota cities of comparable size is 1.54 officers per 1,000 residents. Worthington ranked highest at 2.09 officers per 1,000 residents. Mankato and North Mankato were the lowest, at 1.05 and 0.95, respectively.
The police chief has repeatedly heard criticism over the years that Fairmont has too many cops, including a Sentinel editorial that questioned how many officers are needed for a city with Fairmont's population. Yet the number of calls requesting police assistance implies there is a high demand for law enforcement services, Brolsma says.
"There are really a lot of people who think we're not doing enough," he said. "It's really a careful ride to match what we can do with what we can afford."
Uniform Crime Reports put together by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension indicate Fairmont has been effective in that balancing act, at least with serious crimes. The UCRs show the city has far fewer serious crimes - ranging from murder to driving under the influence - since 2001. Overall, the crime rate for these offenses is down 40 percent in Fairmont, a trend that's been seen in similar size communities across the state of Minnesota.
But there's still work to be done. One complaint police hear is that residents don't feel safe in the city's parks, so patrol time around public properties has increased.
A more difficult issue to tackle is an increase in drug use, including pharmaceutical, marijuana and street narcotics.
"DUIs are going down, but we're on pace to have the most narcotics cases in 12 years," Brolsma said.
Higher police-to-population ratios do not necessarily correlate with lower crime rates, but Brolsma believes having adequate personnel can make a difference.
Working under the chief for Fairmont's Police Department are his lieutenant, Del Ellis; four sergeants; eight patrolmen; a detective; a school resource officer; an animal control officer; and two administrative assistants.
The department lost one of its two detectives last year when Corey Klanderud was selected to serve as Martin County's chief deputy. At this point in time, the city is not planning to replace Klanderud, presenting the police force with a challenge for cases that require investigative follow-up.
"That's a weakness," Brolsma said.
For any successes the city has seen in lowering crime rates, Brolsma readily shares the credit with other government and community programs, as well as caring individuals.
"There are so many partnerships, so many people focused on trying to make a difference in their community, both public sector folks and the community at large," he said.
"Our community has a lot to celebrate."