Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 1, 2000

Crime rate still low in Winsted

By Jane Otto

"Winsted is still a safe place to live," said Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich.

Henrich was referring to a relatively small increase in crime reported in the 1999 police statistics.

Statistics can be misleading, said Henrich.

For example, domestic assault rose from one incident in 1998 to 11 in 1999. Henrich said that the increase can be attributed to repeat offenders. It usually just involves two or three families, he added.

Crimes that generally are of greatest concern to residents have either declined or are very minimal. Burglary, robbery, assault, and sexual assault, for example, were the same in 1999 as 1998, with only one or two instances being reported.

Curfew and loitering violations had a downturn from 45 in 1998 to 14 in 1999. Henrich said in his years in Winsted this is one statistic that goes up and down.

"It's usually a certain group of kids that account for those numbers. They either grow up or move on," said Henrich.

Winter parking violations also have seen a significant decline, from 36 in 1998 to only 5 in 1999. Of course, the lack of snow helps in that department.

Driving with no proof of insurance had the most dramatic increase, from 24 in 1998 to 74 in 1999, as did driving without seat belts, with 29 incidents reported in 1998 and 60 reported in 1999.

Henrich said that increase is due to the state's Safe and Sober program. The state-funded program enables the city to run radar checks on traffic.

Vehicles are initially stopped for speeding, said Henrich. Officers first check for insurance and seat belts, and then, will ask the driver to take a field sobriety test if necessary, as part of the program.

Henrich said his officers attend classes to assure proper implementation of the program, part of which is not only to cut down on drinking and driving, but to educate drivers on correct seat belt use.

Winstock is the police department's biggest challenge, Heinrich said. Each year, they've improved upon the past year. At this year's Winstock, Heinrich said they will have dispatchers on site which can only enhance security by providing quicker assistance where needed, he added.

To continue Winsted's low crime rate, Henrich's greatest commitment is to schools, through D.A.R.E. or other community programs.

"The more kids get to know us, then the more we can get to know them," said Henrich.

Visibility is important. Being at school activities also gives him an opportunity to meet parents, he said.

"Overall, this is a safe community. It's just a small, select group that causes trouble. The youth here are good and I think that speaks highly of a community," said Henrich.

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