When Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar visited Craig to speak at a luncheon Wednesday, he asked the residents seated at his table what concerns they have that the chief law enforcement officer in the state ought to know about.
Mayor Dave DeRose cited the methamphetamine problem.
During his short address to Boys and Girls Club supporters, Salazar acknowledged that meth is a problem throughout rural Colorado, calling the drug "a plague."
He stressed the importance of providing positive afterschool experiences for children as one way to combat the problem. Salazar said most children get in trouble between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m., not in the wee hours of the morning as many would expect. He also said that from a law enforcement perspective, the best thing a community can do to thwart crime, violence and drug addiction is to create a nurturing environment for kids. That way they grow up making the right choices in life.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta echoed those sentiments Thursday, saying any group that wants to help police combat the meth problem should get involved
in supporting the Boys and Girls Club.
In the wake of the Craig Daily Press' four-part series on the meth problem in Moffat County, Vanatta said there are hints the community is coming to grips with the scope of the problem.
"People's awareness seems to be greater," he said. "People are calling us a little more and that, in and of itself, helps," he said. "That awareness will maybe help motivate people to work with us a little better.
"Our whole operational premise with a community policing philosophy is that we can't do this alone. We'll take all the help we can get, as long as it is coordinated and focused on positive results and not turning into vigilante groups," he said.
DeRose asked Salazar about resources the Attorney General's office could provide to help Moffat County counteract meth.
"They have some great training programs," DeRose said. "It's something I think could be useful for everyone. If I have to pay for it myself, I'm thinking of providing training to my employees."
DeRose owns Masterworks Mechanical in Craig. His employees go inside a lot of homes on service calls. For their own protection, he wants them to be able to spot the signs of a meth lab. He also thinks his workers can make a difference by alerting landlords and property managers that their tenants may be up to no good. "Let's create a scenario where landlords aren't renting to (meth users)," DeRose said. "If we only impact 25 percent of them, that's still a lot."
The mayor is prepared to ask the City Council to take some steps to heighten community awareness, perhaps spend some money on an advertising campaign.
But, like Salazar and Vanatta, DeRose is convinced that groups like Young Life and the Boys and Girls Club hold the key to keeping children safe from drugs. "We not only need to say no to drugs, we need to say hell no," DeRose said.
The Boys and Girls Club is not a panacea, but it's another resource that will provide a positive direction for children who may otherwise be headed for trouble.
More importantly, it's coming at a time when Moffat County residents are actively searching for ways to stem the devastating effects of meth use.