Burglary influx reported at Coffee with a Cop

By Chelsea McNerney-Martinez, Monte Vista Journal
Original article HERE

Police Chief John Rosecrans and Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Huff met with members of the public for the monthly coffee with a cop forum, held the first Wednesday of the month. Rosecrans reemphasized the purpose of the forum is to make himself “available on a regular basis to talk about what the citizens are concerned about… and find out what the critical issues are.”

Rosecrans explained there are currently three officers in different training phases with MVPD but he is happy that one is a local person, noting it helps having people who live and grow up here to understand the needs of the community, pointing out the irony in how many Alamosa Police Department officers live in Monte Vista and vice versa.

Rosecrans also discussed a major influx in burglaries with only roughly 10 reported for all of 2018 until two weeks ago, with seven reported in one week. Three of the burglaries were committed at once at the AAAA Storage Units. The MVPD has a lead on the type of vehicle the burglar was driving but the surveillance video did not provide the license plate. Of the four home burglaries, one was of a home where the residents had been gone for two weeks, one was an intoxicated burglar who was still present in the home and arrested when police arrived, one was likely committed by a friend of one of the residents who was specifically targeted and evidence was left behind and the residents of the fourth home are unsure what was taken, if anything, indicating the burglar may have been interrupted.

“The number three drug dealer in Monte Vista was recently arrested on a major drug charge,” with Rosecrans indicating they will also be pursuing a murder charge because the dealer sold to someone who passed away from an overdose. The dealer lived in Alamosa but sold predominantly in Monte Vista and was known to sell several different kinds of drugs. “We’re going to send the message to other dealers that an overdose is a federal murder charge.”

Rosecrans also indicated the police department had heard complaints about the number of traffic stops and citations the department is issuing but reminded the attendees although “some good people are going to get tickets” the larger purpose is because police officers have the most ability to stop other crimes in vehicles. Rosecrans noted homes are harder to see crimes happening inside but vehicles provide the greatest chance of interdiction on another major crime or offender because officers can observe evidence in a traffic stop.

Local pastor, firefighter and police minister Wayne Wittner asked Rosecrans about local law enforcement departments’ plans in handling a major school shooter or bomb threat incident, which Rosecrans answered was pretty standard to what departments are doing nationally. “The first goal is to stop active violence,” then isolate the school and more methodically handle the situation. “We respond to save lives, regardless of our own.” Rosecrans indicated the protocol was fairly well known, but the departments need to practice it more and work with school district on completing drills together. Rosecrans also noted the community has a 10/20 to one ratio of students to first responders, so to help prevent some of the potential chaos in a situation like this, practicing is the most efficient means of preparation. Rosecrans also indicated the stereotype of small schools being compliant in the assumption that something like that couldn’t happen here is no longer really true; local schools take safety very seriously but noted law enforcement can’t be considered the only solution to the issue of school violence because it is a multifaceted problem.

Huff and Rosecrans also fielded several questions about code enforcement, with Rosecrans noting at least three people had complained about Huff checking yards from alleys recently, indicating he is thoroughly doing his job.

Huff stated he has also been committing a lot of effort to addressing the train cars in city property, noting a buyer in Arizona recently bought at least six of them but was told by Don Shank they had “ample time” to pick them up. Huff indicated the new owner was receptive to moving the cars as quickly as possible. Former City Attorney Eugene Farish asked about the possibility of using the municipal court system to get Shank to remove cars and Huff indicated he is going to keep trying to communicate with him first but is open to using the courts if necessary. Huff indicated he has talked to Shank, who feels harassed by the court proceedings and was also burned in a business deal with another person with train cars in the city. Shank asked Huff to also pursue removing the other owner’s cars as well, which Huff indicated he would look into. “I like challenges,” Huff said of the train car removal issue, adding about using the court system, “It’s been in litigation forever and there they still sit.”

Huff added he has been working on trash and junk removal from properties as well, noting he has seen several people who pile trash in their backyards for long periods of time instead of using a trash service or paying the dump fees. A citizen suggested making trash service mandatory within city limits, with Huff and Rosecrans answering they understand money is an issue, “But it gets old hearing they can’t afford it and then seeing them talk on a $700 cell phone,” Rosecrans said.

Other code enforcement issues discussed included the procedure and costs for dogs picked up in the city and taken to Conour Animal Shelter and Huff’s effort to address cars for sale and random vendors along Highway 160. Huff explained the vendors can be on private property if they can prove they have written permission from the property owner; the sale held on April 28 was for a specific cause within the city, but otherwise they have largely decreased the number of vendors.