Oak Creek police force wanted

Residents, officials meet with commissioners to discuss issues

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The Routt County Board of Commissioners is willing to talk to Oak Creek about its policing issues, but the best solution would be the creation of a new town police force, Commissioner Doug Monger said Tuesday night.

Representatives from the Routt County Sheriff's Office, along with the commissioners, met with Oak Creek residents and officials during a commissioners chat session Tuesday night, where residents asked questions about such topics as 4-H and junkyards. The most pressing item, however, was how to get a police presence back in the town.

The Sheriff's Office has been the only agency to respond to police calls in Oak Creek since the town's previous officers quit or were taken off duty late last year. Sheriff's Office deputies are responding to reports of substantial crimes, but they have stopped responding to code violations, dog violations and other smaller infractions. Not all residents were happy with the change, Trustee Dave Ege said. He said Colorado statutes do not require a town to provide its own police force and that because Oak Creek residents pay taxes, they should receive coverage from the county law enforcement.

Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the statutes were unclear at best, because while they do not mandate that towns provide their own law enforcement, they also state that towns can contract for sheriff's office coverage, implying that county law enforcement does not necessarily have to cover incorporated towns without compensation.

"Providing law enforcement to municipalities is more than a sheriff's department typically does," she said. "We need to hear from a town board and get to the bottom of what you want from a sheriff's department. ... We don't seem to be able to get over this hump of determining what you really want."

Stahoviak said one of the major reasons for towns to incorporate is for the municipality to provide a higher level of police protection.

Trustee David Fisher said he agreed with Ege that the town does not have to provide a police department, but based on community reaction during a focus group this spring, he thinks residents would prefer a hometown force.

"Essentially what I have gotten back from the police focus group is the community wants us to have our own police force, and our task as trustees is to find a way to make that happen," Fisher said.

Resident Jennifer Sliney said a town police force also would handle law enforcement problems above what the sheriff could handle with the amount of staffing available - typically two deputies and a supervisor at any time.

"The sheriff's department is in no position to provide public services to the community of Oak Creek on the level we need," she said. "I think the wake-up call is really for the people of Oak Creek. We had a police department and there were problems, certainly : but we have a serious problem in this community that unfortunately requires police."

The town contracted with the county to provide law enforcement in 2002, but that didn't work out well, Monger said.

"I would really hope that Oak Creek would move toward doing its own police department," he said, because the bill for services in the 2002 agreement ended up being more than the town wanted to pay.

"This board has not said we're not interested in having the discussion (of contracting for service again). We're interested in having the discussion. The problem is that with that, we need to have it very clear what those levels of service will be and how it's above what we're providing now," he said.

Ege and Fisher, along with other residents who attended the chat session, thanked the deputies for responding to calls, and Undersheriff Dave Bustos said deputies will continue to respond to emergency calls and calls to keep the peace in Oak Creek.

No action was taken during the chat session.

Comments

JusWondering 5 years, 6 months ago

Interesting article in the Journal today... sounds like with the recession many are considering disincorporating (albiet for differing reaons than OC).

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124337975286456249.html

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

The idea that because a municipality can contract with the Sheriff's dept means that they are obligated to pay is a false assumption that fails to consider perfectly logical alternative justifications for the municipality to enter into a contract to pay the Sheriff's dept.

The alternative reasons are that the municipality could have municipal code which it would like enforced and that the municipality would like to pay for more police services than is given to the rest of the county.

Oak Creek is currently in the rather odd situation of the Sheriff's dept will not investigate or make a police report for nonviolent misdemeanors. This is not some vague hypothetical. I had a DVD recording of theft and vandalism which I took to the Sheriff's dept which they refused to accept, but told me that if it was outside of Oak Creek then they would have accepted it and investigated.

Thus, despite being county residents that pay the same county taxes, Oak Creek is currently receiving less Sheriff's dept services than county residents.

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honestabe 5 years, 6 months ago

if scotts statements are true, maybe the commisioners should be looking into the sheriff departments lack of response. it seems negligent and near criminal. If it is true (and i have no reason to doubt scotts statement), then vigilante justice is the only solution for resolving o.c. based incidents/crimes.

Vigilante justice is now the rule in o.c., sanctioned by the sheriff. The people of oak creek would like to know if the sheriffs department is truly looking the other way and ignoring crimes in Routt County.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

honestabe, It is was the topic of an exchange of emails between the Sheriff's dept and members of the OC town board.

The idea that this someone justifies vigilante justice is simply not supported by the facts. Town of Oak Creek could hire someone to investigate these crimes that the Sheriff's dept will not investigate.

I think Oak Creek should threaten to dissolve the town government and go county like Pburg, Stagecoach, Milner, Hahn's Peak and Clark. Why are the people of Oak Creek struggling with trying to support a local government when it has enough problems already and now the County wants to bury it will a huge police services bill?

And when asked why Yampa pays $7,000 a year and they want OC to pay $308K the excuses given were that OC was bigger and had more commercial and Yampa had a good community watch program. That is supposed to explain why they want to charge OC 44 times more than Yampa? 4 times more okay, maybe 8 times more, but 44 times more? That is outrageous.

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honestabe 5 years, 6 months ago

if someone perpetrates a crime against me or my family (esp my family) or our property, and there is no law enforcement willing or available to assist in my dilemma, i see no other solution than vigilante justice. i assume the majority of oak creekers feel the same (there is no shortage of guns and ammo in o.c)

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RangerRoutt 5 years, 6 months ago

it is Oak Creek....I say bump it up to $500,000

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

Well, stuff happens in Oak Creek. Wed night there was a domestic and someone feeling ill from a, I believe, meth overdose. And apparently there was also someone getting ready to hit a deputy in the head with a rock.

Though, just as that shows that there is a need for police to respond to incidents in OC, it also shows that OC is largely going to rely upon the Sheriff's dept because OC is not going to have four officers on duty to handle things like that.

And 98% of the time in OC there is nothing going on and so the police have little to do.

So OC should use the Sheriff's dept and the Sheriff's dept should provide the same service to Oak Creek residents as county residents. And the Sheriff's dept should look at OC's Town budget and say please pay us this amount and please spend that amount on a community service officer and call it good.

But $308K is so much that it is nonstarter. And if the County is not going to treat OC like the rest of the county then OC should seriously consider ceasing to be a town and become county. (and that might help OC because CC said that they repaved cty road 33 from energy impact funds and they didn't have other roads used by coal industry to spend the money on - well if OC was county then county could use that funding source to improve OC because OC is highly impacted by coal (both workers and the railroad splitting the town)).

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flotilla 5 years, 6 months ago

Agreed Scott and thanks for the examples. My point is that we can't live in a pipedream where we want what we can't have. I hope that the sheriff's office can pull together a decent working budget.
It would be disappointing to become part of the county and give up what some have worked for. But whatever needs to happen will happen.

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