With downtown being a huge part of the community it could be relieving to know that there is someone out there making sure everything is under control. Officer Todd Wahl is the Downtown Resource Officer and a graduate from NDSU. In 1999 Wahl went to Police Officer Academy in Devils Lake and got his foot in the door. Ten years after Wahl became a police officer he was then assigned as a Downtown Resource Officer. “Generally, they have had one Resource Officer on days and one on at evenings, this year we just had our evening guy retire and the administration doesn’t know if they are going to fill that position. I’m the only one,” said Wahl.
Ever since the downtown area revitalized and opened more stores a Resource Officer has been needed more then ever. A Resource Officer’s job is to keep an eye on the area to make sure it is a safe place to live and work. Prior to the new job position downtown has had problems with people drinking in public and panhandling. “Now that there is a resource officer in downtown people know better to drink in public because we will cite you and you will go to jail or be fined,” Wahl stated.
Wahl says that drinking in public doesn’t seem too harsh because there is no damage to anyone except for the person who is drinking but it is a B misdemeanor and a person could be slapped with a fine of $1,000. “Generally a person will not get that exact fine, it’s just the maximum penalty and could possibly get up to 30 days in jail. But it is all up to the courts and your past history of that offense,” said Wahl.
The Fargo Police Department wants officers to keep a close watch on Broadway with foot patrol so they now use a smaller use of transportation. When it is nice out Officer Wahl will use his bike to monitor the area. “You get to see a lot of things you wouldn’t see in a car, you hear a lot of things you wouldn’t normally hear,” says Wahl.
If a person is being uncooperative with a police officer the officer can then do whatever it takes to subdue an individual. A huge plus to being a downtown officer is that The Fargo Police Department is only a few blocks away. “In the Downtown area we are kind of spoiled because the Department is in reach and a person will always be ready to assist,” said Wahl. With Broadway being the busiest part of downtown Wahl can get anywhere faster on a bike then driving in a squad car because he can cut through alleys and parking lots.
Officer Wahl recommends people to keep all your windows and doors locked downtown and to never leave valuables in a car or on a bike. Residents should always keep their area lit up Wahl says because it is easier to commit a crime if a person is hidden in the darkness then when something is well lit. “We have crime prevention officers that work with businesses and homeowners that can help out if a person is concerned about something and they can give them pointers to make their property safer,” said Wahl. Wahl says that people should always be aware of suspicious activity. If something doesn’t seem right people can call The Fargo Police Department and we will come out to check the situation.
Officer Wahl and his other fellow officers are part of the program called Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) where they are trained to help people who suffer from a mental illness or suffer a crisis. “I work very closely with Southeast Human Services, Fargo Housing and The Salvation Army,” says Wahl. “We are pretty lucky in Fargo to have the resources we have here than in a smaller community and that is why our homeless population is low.”
The downtown area also has a detox center where if a person is too drunk to take care of themselves an officer will hold them in the center until they are sober. This center is a place where people can sober up and they are not charged with anything. There are also shelters connected to the detox center such as The Gladys Ray Shelter. The Gladys Ray Shelter is a homeless center and it is closed during the day and opened at night. The shelter opens its doors to the public at 6 o’clock. A person could go there to spend the night and in the morning they would need to leave. Another facility is the Cooper House and is owned by Fargo Housing and people can apply to live there and if they are accepted they can move in. Cooper House is designed to help people who are homeless or people who have an alcohol abuse and substance/drug abuse also problem.
There aren’t many crimes, aggravated assaults or homicides downtown. Most of the crimes are property crimes, items stolen or cars broken in. “We have a very low amount of personal crime in Fargo and we also have a low amount of property crime,” Wahl says.
The Fargo Police Department is here to assist and help anyone’s needs and if a person happens to be in the downtown area and see a police officer on a bike it could be Officer Todd Wahl or another officer. Don’t be afraid to say hello.
(Edited by Natalie Lindburg, MSUM Public Relations and News Broadcast Major)