A force in the community

Evart PD increases traffic patrol, sees positive results

EVART — Getting back to the basics of law enforcement is positively affecting the city of Evart, as officers within the Evart Police Department are increasing road patrol and strengthening their presence.

Throughout the last year, the four officers in the department have focused on improving community policing, which includes a Community Watch program, taking part in additional city events, being more visible to the public and increasing traffic enforcement.

"Visibility of police cars is a more effective way of tackling poor driving behavior than other methods such as speed cameras," said Evart Police Chief Kendra Backing. "Enforcement cameras cannot encourage people to wear seat belts, and neither can education alone. Interaction with a police officer is more meaningful than a letter in the mail. Each patrol officer is the most important member of the police organization."

To meet department goals of road patrol, officers have doubled up — two officers in one police car — one night each week. The results have been positive, increasing morale and creating additional learning experiences. Backing said due to increased traffic stops, officers have found additional reasons for arrests, such as operating while intoxicated, unregistered vehicles, persons with outstanding warrants and vehicle seizures.

In January of last year the department received 92 calls, while in the same month this year it received 130, which Backing attributes to the officers' efforts and focusing on the city's problem areas for drivers.

"I think we're tackling not only being visible, but trying to be a deterrence with all these drivers is resulting in good things," she added. "It's been really positive and I've had community members approach me to say 'thank you' for what we're doing."

Being more visible sends a message to city residents regarding higher safety levels, tells would-be offenders of a strong presence of law enforcement and deters crime. In terms of drivers, being visible also can decrease bad driving habits, like texting while driving, of those traveling around and through town, she added.

With many communities considering mergers between local and county departments and eradicating municipal police forces to save money, the pressure is on for Backing to show a need to keep the Evart Police Department relevant.

"Merging is a hot topic and some agencies are forced to do it, but I hope that's never the case here," she added. "I hope that we as a police department are sending a message that we don't have to do the community watch program, we don't have to do National Night Out, but we want to do all of that.

We have a young, motivated department and it's neat to be a part of that."