Increase in police force needed in Berthoud
By Amber McIver-Traywick
Keeping up with the safety of a community is a 24/7 job. Having enough people to do the job well is a subject that was brought up at a Berthoud Board of Trustees meeting last month.
At that meeting Sergeant Jim Anderson presented the annual report for the police department in Berthoud. Following the report Anderson was asked by Mayor Steve Mulvihill if the police man-power in Berthoud was sufficient, to which Anderson replied, “Our manpower throughout our agency is not sufficient – it’s rough to take on a large area with one deputy.” He continued by saying, “It’s a lot of area to cover, but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”
Berthoud currently has around-the-clock coverage from a police force made up of four street deputies and two school resource officers provided by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD) and paid for by the Town of Berthoud. According to Anderson this has included officers at times doing double-shifts to maintain that coverage.
The community partnership with the LCSD over the past three years has led to many improvements within the Berthoud police department. Anderson is quick to acknowledge because of the partnership, “Everything is top notch.” This includes up-to-date equipment, records management, well-maintained vehicles and exceptional on-going training; including fire-arms training, arrest control, and other state mandated instruction. Anderson pointed out smaller independent police departments often have less access to this high quality of equipment and training.
The number of officers is currently the greatest issue facing the department. “What worries me is officer safety,” Anderson said in a recent interview. “If we looked at reality we should have two people on every shift for a 24-hour period.”
Statistics provided by the LCSD show an increase in dispatched calls for target crimes in Berthoud, which include assault, theft, harassment and suspicious activity, increasing by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016. The overall calls to the police in that same time frame increased by 4.1 percent, with the numbers for 2017 continuing in that upward trend. With the increase of serious events being called in, having more than one officer becomes even more crucial.
Growth in the communities surrounding Berthoud has also played a role in these trends. Berthoud is a gateway between towns to the north and south. “Many of our problems are not from within Berthoud but from without. The majority are coming from surrounding communities.” Mulvihill said.
It is estimated Berthoud’s own population will increase to over 7,000 by the end of the year, an increase of more than 800 people from last year. The town also has over 55 miles of road currently within city limits. With more developments in the works those numbers will only continue to rise.
Being proactive seems to be at the heart of the request to increase the force. Pertaining to this growth Mulvihill said “Safety is our number-one priority; we have to stay ahead of growth and not lag behind.” A sentiment reflected by Anderson, “We need to start looking at a program or commitment of increasing the force each year.”
The town has already taken steps to help with the police load this year by creating a code-enforcement position whose responsibilities include animal control and minor code infractions.
When asked if funding was available to increase the police force the mayor said, “Something will have to give. We will look at the budget and make determinations where money will come from.”
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