Police: Tips have big impact

FAIRMONT – Last week, a woman in Waseca who saw a juvenile running through her backyard toward some storage units called police. When they went to investigate, police found much more than a kid who trespassed to take a shortcut.

The teen was discovered in one of the storage units with materials that could have been used to make bombs. It was later learned the teen planned to go on a massive shooting spree, targeting his family and school.

“We get calls regularly,” said Fairmont police officer Jaime Bleess. “Everyone at their workplaces, their homes and schools. They know what that environment is and when it’s not right … Most of the time when we get those calls, we go check it out and find out the reason it looks different. [Waseca police] probably thought that they had a regular call, but that’s why we check on those things.”

With violent acts such as school shootings possible, police say it is important for everyone to be aware of the warning signs. Fairmont Police Sgt. Michael Hunter, who has received specialized training for such situations, says studies show that suspects have told someone about their plan prior to the incident 81 percent of the time.

“That’s why when you hear something, you need to say something,” Hunter said. “Also, 93 percent of the time, the suspect engaged in behavior prior that caused concern and indicated there was a need for help.”

Tips from citizens that may seem minor could end up being key to helping police.

“The tips from the public make a large difference,” said Fairmont Police Chief Greg Brolsma. “When we had the mall burglary, we had the suspect arrested eight minutes after we received a call with a tip. Years back, when we had about 15 to 20 burglaries, we learned that one person witnessed one early on, but she said she didn’t call it in because she didn’t want to bother us … It’s not a bother, it’s what we get paid to do, and those tips from the public really do make a difference.”

“Even for things such as barking dogs,” Hunter said. “Nine out of ten times, that dog is barking at something.”

Those who call in or report a tip can remain confidential by asking to be anonymous.

“The same goes for juveniles who make a report to the school resource officer,” Hunter said. “Sometimes that little bit of detail can lead to a traffic stop or a search warrant … It’s great to have extra eyes in the community.”