By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Although Cheyenne has seen a spike in property crimes over the last year, the city’s police department is taking steps to cut down on the crimes, its police chief told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
CPD Chief Mark Francisco said the city has definitely seen an increase in property crimes such as vandalism, auto theft and burglaries in the past year, but he said he could not speculate as to the cause.
“I know the mayor is particularly frustrated with some of the vandalism that’s occurred on city property downtown,” Francisco said. “We’ve had some success with that in making arrests here and there and we’ve tried to do some education regarding catalytic converters and stolen autos.”
In his weekly “Mayor’s Minute” column issued in late April, Cheyenne Mayor Patrick 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.
Francisco, who was appointed to police chief in 2021 after Collins decided to not reappoint former police chief Brian Kozak, said there was a particular surge in auto thefts last year compared to years past.
Arrest numbers for burglaries, auto thefts and public vandalism that occurred in Cheyenne in 2021 were not immediately available.
Kozak, who is now a candidate for Laramie County sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily last week 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.”
Francisco could not comment on the numbers Kozak shared, since he was unaware of where the former chief got his data.
While he could not point to any particular reasons for the property crimes spike in Cheyenne, Francisco thought the COVID-19 pandemic could have played a role in it.
“Nationwide, coming off of COVID, the criminal justice system struggled with officers being able to contact people, jails being able to accept people and trials being delayed because of the COVID effects,” he said. “I would say in a broad sense, we’re still digging ourselves out from a backlog in a lot of ways. We’ve got a lot of outstanding warrants out there that the criminal justice system couldn’t deal with.”
Despite the spike, Francisco noted that there has been a downturn in these crimes since the beginning of 2022.
He added that the police department is looking into ways to better monitor certain areas that see more crime or vandalism, such as the city’s downtown parking garage, but some needed surveillance equipment has become difficult to get because of supply chain issues.
In the meantime, Francisco called on city residents and visitors to contact the police if they see something suspicious.
“If they see something that looks odd out there, please let us know,” he said. “Any help we can get to identify when something’s going on, it’ll be better for all of us.”