Cheyenne Police Chief responds to high crime statistics

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CHEYENNE, Wyo.- A recent report from the FBI revealed 2016 crime statistics for the nation, as well as a closer look at each state. The report showed a national trend for an increase in violent crime, and a drop in property crimes similar to Cheyenne.

When looking closer at each city in the state, Cheyenne's numbers of crime in each category were drastically higher than any other city in Wyoming. Although the capitol city has the highest population in the state, the numbers were still much higher than the closest city in size- Casper.

For example, the FBI report reported 172 violent crimes for Cheyenne, while Casper had 70. Both cities reported high numbers of property crime, but Cheyenne saw almost a thousand more in the same year.

Chief Kozak said he was not surprised to see the high numbers. The Cheyenne Police Department shares monthly crime reports on their website throughout the year and says they try to be as transparent as possible. Kozak said, "If you're looking at the Casper report last year, they had two reported rapes last year." He added, "For a department agency that size, it seems like that's just not possible."

The Chief of Police said it seems that citizens are not reporting cases like rape to the police department in that area because of some apprehension or fear there, or perhaps crime is being miscatergorized and not being reported properly to the FBI.

Promoting victims to come forward to report when a crime happens is something Kozak says is a priority. He says they work with social service organizations and the hospital to promote reports to make sure they can investigate and correct the problem.

Although Kozak disagrees that Cheyenne is a dangerous city to live in, he agrees that violent crime is on the rise. He said, "It is going up across the country as well as in Cheyenne, and so one of the things we do proactively is look at how that trend is going and how we're going to address it."

According to the CPD 2016 report, that's exactly what they've done with property crimes. Property crime includes everything from auto theft, burglary and larceny. Kozak said, "Cheyenne has always been above the average for property crime, always has been that way."

After a spike in property crime back in 2014, the chief says they worked with retailers and loss prevention specialist throughout the city to coordinate a way to work together, report crimes and work on identifying the criminals. After seeing a drop this year, Kozak said he believes the program is working.

Over the past eight years, Kozak says the city has grown almost 18 percent, which has made it challenging for their department. He says their calls for service have increased 25 percent, but they have not received any new police officers. Kozak says the department would need an additional 15 officers to provide the same service they did eight years ago. With a low budget, he added, "Our officers are trying to find ways to be more efficient and to get the job done with the same resources we've always had."

Cheyenne's Chief of Police says there are some contributing factors to Cheyenne's higher crime numbers. The proximity of front range cities like Greeley, Loveland, Fort Collins and Denver drives the amount of crime up according to Kozak. He said, "We have a lot of transient population, transient criminals, criminals that will come to Cheyenne to commit robberies, commit crime, burglaries and then go back to Colorado."

A map on the CPD website shows the Walmart off of Campstool Road has almost 76 larcenies in the past five months at its location. Kozak said the addition of the big box store near Interstate 80 back in 2014 created a spike in theft and larcenies.

In addition, the Cheyenne Police Department has seen a spike in methamphetamine related arrests. The increasing slope that started back in 2014 has grown significantly over the past years. Kozak said, "Ten years ago, you're looking at maybe less than 20 methamphetamine related arrests. Currently, we're averaging about 200-300 methamphetamine related arrests a year."

Looking at the year in review, Chief Kozak says they have been successful in reducing property crime as well as helping the image of Cheyenne's downtown with the introduction of Operation Change. However, with an increase in robberies, the police department plans to be more proactive with businesses in helping them coordinate and solve crimes in the upcoming year.

The following reports are included: