Community members show support for anti-crime efforts in Anoka

“We have changed from a culture of reaction to a culture of pre-emption.”

Officer Mike Whitaker, along with other members of the Anoka Police Department, present the colors at Tuesday’s fund-raiser breakfast for the Anoka Anti-Crime Commission.
Officer Mike Whitaker, along with other members of the Anoka Police Department, present the colors at Tuesday’s fund-raiser breakfast for the Anoka Anti-Crime Commission.

This was the message from Kris Eide, director for Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the state of Minnesota.

Eide talked about the role of those organizations in helping keep Minnesotans safe and prepared for disaster at Tuesday’s 22nd annual Anoka Anti-Crime Commission fund-raising breakfast at Green Haven Golf Club.

Eide, a graduate of Coon Rapids High School, is the homeland security adviser to Gov. Mark Dayton and has the overall responsibility to ensure coordination of state agency preparedness and emergency response to all types of natural and other emergencies and disasters.

And part of being prepared is making sure cities, and citizens, know what to do when disaster strikes.

“The very first responder is the victim themselves,” said Eide, reminding attendees to think about the I-35W bridge collapse and how it was the other drivers on the bridge who were first to offer assistance during the eight minutes it took for help to arrive. “We all have to make sure we are prepared as individuals so we can help others.”

Emergency responders in Minnesota’s cities and counties do this through exercises that simulate disasters, like the one held this summer at ATK where local law enforcement, fire departments and medical teams simulated a train derailment.

“We have to exercise,” said Eide. “We really have to push these things to fail. We fail so we can find the gaps.”

Eide also talked about the changes that have come about since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

She cautioned people against being too polite in a situation that seems suspicious.

“If you see something, say something,” said Eide, who has been involved in emergency preparedness for the past 30 years. She started her career with the American Red Cross and has served as a subject matter expert for the International Atomic Energy Agency to assist Russia and Turkey with emergency preparedness efforts.


Work of the commission

Tuesday’s fund-raising breakfast put the work of the Anoka Anti-Crime Commission in the spotlight.

The commission funds many extras for the Anoka Police Department, easing burdens on the budget by purchasing things like a K9 for the department or subsidizing education programs at Anoka schools, including the DARE program and summer program at Franklin, Lincoln and Wilson elementary schools. The commission also provides reward money for police department investigations and crime prevention programs outside of the police department budget.

The annual October breakfast is the only fund-raiser for the group.

“We want Anoka to be a safe place for its citizens, its workers, people stopping in for a visit or passing through,” said Commission Chairperson Les Clemmons.

According to Anoka City Councilmember Steve Schmidt, despite the large amount of money the city spends on public safety, “there are still many things that can’t get done without the specific attention from this anti-crime commission.”

Police Chief Phil Johanson said the commission, which meets monthly, acts as a valuable bridge between the community and the police department.

“We get a feel for how things are going out there in the community and they get a feel for how things are going at the police department,” said Johanson.

Johanson also talked about crime statistics for the city in 2011.

Last year the department responded to 20,148 calls, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

Anoka saw a significant increase, 11 percent, in larcenies in 2011.

Johanson said most of those thefts took place at schools in the city, specifically the high school, where electronics are a target.

In 2011 the city also had one homicide with the death of a child as a result of being shaken. This is only the second homicide in Anoka since 2007.

According to Johanson, there was a 20 percent increase in traffic arrests in 2011 along with a 15 percent increase in domestic assaults. There was also a 16 percent increase in calls responding to mental health crisis situations and the suicide attempts more than doubled to 53 compared to 23 in 2011.

At Tuesday’s breakfast Johanson also took a moment to honor the contributions of Anti-Crime Commission Chairperson Clemmons.

Johanson awarded her a Civilian Service Medal, recognizing her longtime commitment to the commission and the community. Clemmons has been with the commission since 1995.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]