Police chief Eric Murphy and Mayor Richard Gard.

By Ernie Over

WyoToday

Riverton Police Chief Eric Murphy told an organizational meeting of a neighborhood watch program Thursday night that most of the shootings in town are people who know each other and have family issues. He said there have been eight such shootings in the past three months. As such, Murphy said “there is no general threat to the community at large.”

He recounted that the last six months have been hard on his officers as stolen vehicles, in his words, are getting out of hand. He said during the last several months the RPD has taken on average about three stolen vehicle reports a night. And he said, “we know who are doing these crimes, it’s 12 to 13 year old girls who are mostly involved and we know where they go and we’ve been able to recover most of the vehicles, some of them damaged on the joy rides.” He said most of the car break-ins and thefts are happening from Midnight to 6 a.m. “They’re kicking our butts.”

Murphy said in the 22 years he’s been at the RPD, he hasn’t seen one incident of someone hot wiring a car to steal it. “People are leaving their keys in their vehicles, they are not locking their doors, and they are leaving valuables and firearms in plain sight inside the vehicle. These are crimes of opportunity,” he said. “Take your keys, lock your vehicles. It’s that simple. if you see something suspicious, call it in. We always have time,” he said, “we will got to your call. Never feel like you can’t call. You should feel safe in your home and that your vehicle will be there in the morning.”

The same advice was given by Mayor Richard Gard. Among the group of a dozen city residents who showed up for the meeting, most came from the neighborhood around the last shooting: the area east of and between the Loaf ‘N Jug and Roomers Motel on either side of Jackson Street. Others there were from Broadway, Adams and North 6th East. 

One resident on Jackson, Jack Couples, told the group he has put up three camera and he said the car lot just north of Roomers has installed motion lights on their fence, which he said has helped a lot. 

Organizer of the event, Greg Talabas, said his goal of the program is to be there for your neighbors and they’ll be there for you. “We want our neighbors to know each other and to report anything suspicious.”

Former Riverton City Council Member Mary Ellen Christensen said she is worried that the police would receive too many calls, but that was immediately refuted by the Mayor and the Chief. “We can’t do it ourselves,” Murphy said. “We need you to be our eyes and ears.”

The Chief said alcohol abuse remains a huge issue in the community, “but we are now seeing black tar heroin and fentanyl overdoses and it’s getting out of control right now.” in answer to a question, Murphy said “gangs from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque and other locations come here to recruit new members and to sell drugs. It’s a big problem and it has been for a long time.”

The reason the Chief and Mayor said people should call 911 when the see something is because many of the people running around are armed with hand hatchets, knives and firearms. Murphy said “almost every stolen car recovered officers find a handgun inside.” Gard said “we appreciate all the info you can give the police, including clothing descriptions, direction of travel, and such.”

Christensen suggested block parties may be a way to get folks in each neighborhood connected with each other. Talabas said the material he’s read indicated two such events a year in each block zone are suggested. Mayor Gard said he’d buy the hot dogs and hamburgers. Chief Murphy said that was an excellent idea and he’d have no trouble issuing a permit for that kind of activity. After further discussion, the city hall parking lot was determined to be the best place for such and event due to its visibility.

Carol Harper came to the meeting with a suggested logo for the group, which she had been working on with Talabas. The logo would be made into laminated signs so residents can post them in their neighborhoods to let people walking through the neighborhood know that residents are watching. 

The group, by consensus, decided to meet again on August 11th at 7 p.m. at City Hall to continue planning their program.

Wyotoday photos by Ernie Over