Recently, Watertown residents have been expressing concerns over a rise in criminal activity. Reports of vandalism, street racing, and even possible drug use has been reported on a community Facebook page. As part of a regular update between the city council and local sheriffs, these issues were discussed in an open forum between the community, council, and sheriffs.
Commander Mike Wollin of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office started with his update regarding the coverage in Watertown. The city currently contracts with three sheriffs, including Sheriff Deputy Robert Cripps. While the community reported vandalism on the Facebook page over the weekend of July 23, no such reports were made to the sheriff’s office, according to Wollin.
The two reports Wollin received before the meeting included damage to a church’s windows, and the egging of a building in downtown which resulted in a citation. Compared to last year, 2021 has seen a decrease in offense reports, Wollin reported.
Cripps expressed that he was surprised at seeing crimes reported on the community Facebook page since they’d received no such reports at the sheriff’s office. He mentioned the prior to the discussion with the council, he reached out to a few residents to talk about the incidents being reported.
“We’ll see on Facebook that there’s an ongoing issue, and I’ll look back in our calls for service, and there won’t be anything reported in that timeframe,” said Cripps. “So I’ve been trying to mend that gap between police and community. We want those phone calls.”
Cripps also assured that even during gaps in coverage, a sheriff will show up no matter what. It may take them longer to get there, but a sheriff will come out if called.
According to residents, a few different instances of vandalism have taken place around town. Mario Cortolezzis, owner of Southfork BBQ and Mario’s Italian Kitchen, stated that Southfork incurred around $3000 worth of damages due to vandalism. The buildings next door, including Marketplace Foods, were also damaged.
This particular section of downtown wasn’t the only area that was vandalized. A light at the baseball field had its wires cut twice, resulting in a lock being placed on the electrical box.
A few residents also expressed concerns over possible drug dealing. One resident mentioned seeing a hand-to-hand deal, and another stated that several people will park outside a house only to leave about 40 minutes later.
One of the dominant themes of the forum, though, was drag racing. According to several residents, the same group of young adults races along Madison Street, which, while currently being used as a detour, is still a residential road. Several residents expressed that the cars are going at least double the speed limit, if not over 100mph. With many of these residents having families including children, they are quite concerned over the safety of their home.
The racing also has a secondary effect: sound. Many stated that these vehicles are loud enough that the sound carries several streets over. The disturbance warrants concern, as residents are worried it reduces the value of their home. Newer residents at the forum even stated that if they’d known it was this bad, they would have reconsidered moving.
Several residents also expressed confusion about reporting. While many wanted to do so, they often don’t get the information such as car and license plate. By the time they are able to call, the cars are long gone and they have no information to give. Those residents also asked for increased patrols as well as advice on what to do in this kind of situation.
Once the residents said their piece, Mayor Steve Washburn addressed residents. He stated that he finds the incidents “unacceptable” and encouraged residents to speak with the Cripps and Wollin about their needs and wants. He also stated that council has consistently supported the sheriff’s department.
“It is going to take all of us to work together,” said Washburn. “I think I speak for the council when I say we find these behaviors unacceptable.”
That being said, the open forum ended. Any residents in Watertown can contact the sheriffs through 911, even if there is no patrol during the time of call. Any information given helps, so snap a photo, take notes, or look for consistency in behaviors to help the sheriffs organize and take care of these issues.