To announce that smash-and-grab store thefts won’t be allowed in Laramie County, the sheriff is forming a posse.
This will be the first year of Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak’s posse, a program for volunteers to help deputies monitor stores during the busy holiday shopping season. They’ll be in uniform and on the lookout for shoplifters and other law violators, Kozak told Cowboy State Daily in a Wednesday interview.
This multiplied force is meant to discourage lawlessness and theft, Kozak added.
“Talking to the shop owners here in Cheyenne and some of the major box stores, they tell me there has been an increase in theft the last few months,” he said. “They would just feel better having a civilian uniform presence — someone who can immediately call the police.”
Kozak didn’t have the data on hand Wednesday to confirm that theft crimes have increased, but shop owners say it has.
“There seems to be a perception out there that (thieves) are not going to be prosecuted; however, our new district attorney is doing a really good job of prosecuting cases and going back and prosecuting (old) cases,” said Kozak.
Laramie County District Attorney Sylvia Hackl was sworn in this January.
Rounding Them Up
A couple volunteers have worked in the department’s records division on vehicle identification number checks and fingerprint forms. But Kozak hopes to expand that program to get extra eyes and ears into the stores this autumn.
“It frees up deputies,” he said. “Volunteers can do things you do not need a cop with a gun to do.”
The program could come in handy next summer for Cheyenne Frontier Days too, he said.
Kozak’s office is hosting an open house for people interested in volunteering at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the sheriff’s office, 1910 Pioneer Ave. in Cheyenne.
Applicants must be 18 or older, have a GED or high school diploma, a valid drier’s license, a good driving record and no felonies.
Not Vigilantes Though
The posse members won’t be tasked with arresting suspects, said Kozak.
Wyoming law allows citizens to arrest people they see stealing, destroying property or committing felonies.
Kozak said that’s not what his program is about. The volunteers are to report to deputies the crimes they see, not tackle and handcuff suspects.
“We would not allow citizen’s arrests with our volunteer program,” said Kozak.
Search And Rescue
Kozak hopes the volunteer program will also be the beginning of a sheriff’s search and rescue program.
Laramie County’s fire departments have performed rescue tasks typically, since the sheriff’s department doesn’t have a program, Kozak said, adding that it will be easier to get state reimbursement for mission expenses if the sheriff’s office has a search and rescue department.
State law designates the county sheriff as the recipient of search and rescue expense reimbursements.
“We’re one of the few counties that do not have one,” said Kozak.
Jonathan Lemley is the first member of the department’s Air Posse, a search and rescue unit, the sheriff said. Lemley is a commercial pilot who asked if he could help. Labor Day was Lemley’s first air patrol, the sheriff’s office announced in a Tuesday Facebook post.
You Do Get A Hat
When Kozak became sheriff this year, his deputies immediately asked for cowboy hats, so he gave them some.
“They like the tradition, the history of the Western sheriff, especially here in Wyoming,” he said.
So the posse members will get hats also.
“They all wear hats. In fact, we issue (them),” said Kozak. “And I think it does look good with the uniform.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.