By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The current mayor and former police chief of Cheyenne are both expressing frustration over high levels of property crime in the city.
Mayor Patrick Collins told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that it “frustrat[ed] the hell” out of him to see how much property crime and vandalism is taking place in the city, while former police chief Brian Kozak said the city’s property crime rate exceeds those seen in larger Colorado communties.
“I don’t know if it’s drug-related. I don’t know if it’s people with too much time and not enough to do,” Collins said. “If you go into our parking garage right now, the second, third and fourth floors, it’s not just graffiti, it’s gross stuff. They’re breaking into the bathrooms in our parks, it’s just going on and on.”
In his weekly “Mayor’s Minute” column issued on Friday, Collins called the levels of property crime being seen in the city “tragic” and called on residents to report any illegal activity to the Cheyenne Police Department.
Collins told Cowboy State Daily that the 110 police officers in the city could not be everywhere at once.
“If you see something that looks funny, I’m hoping that what would happen is someone would pick up a phone and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t look right,'” he said.
Upon winning the mayor’s race in November 2020, Collins announced he would not reappoint Kozak as police chief because of what he called “sobering” crime statistics. Kozak disputed Collins’ allegations and said the incoming mayor was releasing misinformation.
Kozak, who is now a candidate for Laramie County sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the property crime levels seen in Cheyenne and in the county are exceeding those seen in larger cities such as Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, Colorado.
“For example, Natrona County had 24 home burglaries last year, whereas Laramie County had 154, and they’re pretty consistent in population to us,” Kozak said. “Weld County in Colorado, which has traditionally had high crime rates, had 142 home burglaries. So we’re above them.”
One reason for the increase in the property crime rate, Kozak said, was the closure of the Laramie County Detention Center to people arrested on property crime charges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure encouraged perpetrators to commit more and more crimes over the last two years, he said.
Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove’s reluctance and occasional refusal to prosecute certain low-level crimes was also a contributing factor, Kozak said.
“We need to make sure our detention centers are kept open,” he said. “I think there should also be a task force created with our local law enforcement to really look at this property crime data and go after the people committing these crimes.”
Kozak believed a relatively small number of repeat offenders were responsible for the rise in crime rates.
Collins said the police department and current Chief Mark Francisco are aware of the issue of property crimes, but that Cheyenne was a relatively big city and crime was taking place in a number of different locations.
Francisco was not available for comment on Monday.