Two-man force stays busy in Baggs

Baggs, Wyoming police chief Ed Owen hopes that a recent one-man plot to burn city buildings isn't a harbinger of things to come. But, if crime is in store, he's ready.

"With 34 years of experience, I know when to move in the right direction," he said.

Owen and Officer Cameron Allen are the Baggs Police Department.

The two new hires barely had time to unpack when they worked 36 hours straight to divert a potential catastrophe after a man allegedly planned to burn down some of the town's buildings recently.

But two police officers are better than one for the tiny town of about 350 that is expected to experience growing pains, some said. "I think it's a good idea to have one more officer," resident Tracey Habel said. "We have a different crowd of people that don't know anything about us and we don't know anything about them."

An increase in energy workers in Baggs' surrounding areas is bringing new faces to town. Habel, manager of the town's Drifter's Inn Motel, said rooms have been filled all summer, something that rarely happened previously.

Population at Baggs' Little Snake River Valley School increased by about 20 students this year making a total of 181 students in the K-12 school.

Another first for Baggs is having two police officers. Owen and Allen replace former Chief Mark Lapinskas. Baggs' law enforcement is rounded out by the presence of two resident Carbon County deputies.

Because of the growth, the town's city council decided to fund the two police positions.

Owen and Allen formerly worked on the Saratoga, Wyo. Police Department. Owen said he thinks he was fired from his job as Police Chief of more than two years there for reasons of "small town politics."

Owen said he was fired when a former officer that he recommended be terminated later became mayor of the town of about 1,700.

Allen said he wanted to continue working with Owen so he jumped at the chance to work in Baggs. "I brought the best of Saratoga with me," Owen said of Allen.

Owen said he has 34 years of law enforcement experience, most of that in Colorado. Owen said he would use his connections to request services if needed to assist with law enforcement duties for the growing Wyoming town.

"Baggs is in a state of flux because of the all the transient people," he said. "I think Baggs is recognizing its potential for major growth."

Allen retired with the Air Force in 2001. He worked at the Wyoming State Penitentiary for one year before getting on at the Saratoga Police Department.

Currently the officers split their time by taking opposite shifts.

Already Allen said he's noticed that residents seem to appreciate the increase in law enforcement, according to conversations he's had with residents.

"The community is happy to see two police officers," he said.

Allen said he's talked to a number of elderly people who have lived in Baggs their whole lives.

However some are terrified to go out at night. Seeing an extra patrol car in town is reassuring for them.

But, not everyone likes the change. Some motorists don't realize the town now has more than one cop.

Truckers think they can speed up after seeing one officer while traveling the town's main thoroughfare, Highway 789, Allen said.

"They don't know there's another one of us at the other end of town," he said.

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