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Cheyenne Police Chief Acknowledges Increase In Property Crime, Says Progress Is Being Made

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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.”

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Cheyenne Mayor, Former Police Chief Frustrated Over ‘Tragic’ Levels Of Property Crime

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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.”


Cheyenne Parking Garage

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.

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