Adam Halverson is fast becoming the most recognizable police officer in Lino Lakes.
From July 1 to Aug. 27, he made 535 traffic stops in the north metro city of 21,000. That’s two more than the rest of the 25-officer department combined made in the same period.
If he keeps up that pace, Halverson, the city’s dedicated DWI enforcement officer, will have pulled over the equivalent of 15 percent of the city’s population in a year’s time.
During the same period, he issued 261 citations, arrested 22 suspected drunken drivers and made two drug busts. In a single 12-hour shift, he makes 10 to 30 stops. He heavily patrols Lino Lakes’ Main and Birch streets, as well as part of Interstate 35W and 35E, where they converge.
“It’s pretty remarkable. He grew up around here, and he lives around here. He cares for this community,” said his boss, Deputy Director of Police Kelly McCarthy, who said even she is more careful driving, knowing Halverson is patrolling the streets.
And that’s the point. For every traffic stop logged, dozens of other motorists driving by those flashing squad lights ease up on the gas or put down the smartphone.
“That visibility reduces crime,” Halverson said. “It makes the roads safer for everyone out there. The driving public slows down and watches their driving, which reduces the total number of crashes.”
Anoka County has the dubious distinction of being a hotbed for drunken driving. From 2010 to 2014, it recorded 18 drunken-driving-related fatalities and 6,875 DWI arrests, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. It ranks second in the state for alcohol-related traffic deaths and serious injuries, after Hennepin County.
Lino Lakes, Coon Rapids and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office all have received federal dollars for an officer dedicated to drunken-driving enforcement. The grants cover the salary of the officer, plus the cost of a squad car and other traffic safety equipment.
In Coon Rapids, dedicated DWI enforcement officer Adam Jacobson has made 30 of the department’s 70 drunken-driving arrests since June 1.
“It makes a big difference to have a dedicated DWI officer,” said Coon Rapids Police Capt. Jon Urquhart. “One out of every five people involved in a fatality are impaired, whether it’s alcohol or drugs. We get an officer solely dedicated to keeping people safe.”
The power of the traffic stop
Increased DWI and traffic law enforcement annoys some folks, but in the suburbs, dangerous driving is what bothers people the most.
“The number one complaint [the city police department gets] is traffic — speeding, passing on the shoulder, reckless and careless driving,” McCarthy said.
And she has a quick response to the question speeders often ask: “Don’t the police have anything better to do?”
“How do you think you catch murderers or rapists? Traffic stops,” McCarthy said.
Increased traffic patrols also could be deterring thieves. As the number of traffic stops climbed this summer, the number of thefts, including of motor vehicles, dropped from 56 in June to 31 in July to 17 in August, according to McCarthy.
“While we are not 100 percent sure there is a direct correlation, it is certainly good news,” she said.
Lino Lakes Mayor Jeff Reinert said he’s been happy to tap into federal dollars to help improve safety.
“This position is a new program for our city, and so far I have heard that Officer Halverson is doing a great job,” Reinert wrote in an e-mail. “Statistically, traffic stops [are] how criminals are caught. When they come into Lino Lakes, we now have a new program to catch them before they have a chance to do any harm.”
Halverson, who previously was a school resource officer, requested the traffic assignment. He said he got a taste for doing traffic stops at his first job with the Bayport Police Department, where there was time to work traffic because emergency calls were infrequent and sporadic. The Centennial High School graduate joined his hometown police department in 2001.
The most common offenses he sees are passing on the shoulder, speeding and failing to wear a seat belt.
One emerging trend that’s surprising police: the number of highly intoxicated drivers caught in the early evening hours. “It’s the happy hour crowd, which we did not expect at all,” McCarthy said.
Halverson said all but two of his drunken-driving arrests occurred between 5 and 10 p.m.
“I was surprised, too,” he said.