Summer brings uptick in calls for Craig police force

Maybe it’s just the heat, but the overall number of police calls increased last month, which Craig Police Chief Mike Cochran said is typical in the summer.

Cochran offered a monthly update on police activity for Craig City Council on Tuesday evening, July 12.

He said the majority of the calls are for code enforcement, related to weed or animal complaints, which are managed by the department’s community service officers.

“It’s what you see predominately with the change of the season,” Cochran said. 

The No. 1 increase this time of the year is for animal complaints. Cochran said calls range from pets that have gotten loose to barking dogs. 

Cochran said for loose pet calls, the animals are often gone by the time animal control arrives. In other cases, when someone is able to catch a loose pet, animal control comes to take the animal to the shelter. 

If the animal is registered, animal control can return it to the owner directly without having to take it to the shelter first. That’s one primary reason it’s important to register animals.

Also, several times this summer the animal shelter has been filled to capacity, which Cochran said is unusual.

Animal control officers have taken some animals to shelters on the Front Range, where there is a higher chance of them being adopted. 

According to Cochran, there is always an increase in animal control calls during the summer, but this year the activity has been unusually high.

That might have something to do with the pandemic. It was reported that over 23 million American households — nearly one in five nationwide — adopted a pet during the pandemic shutdowns, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

There’s been speculation that with families returning back to work and school, owners have less time and fewer resources for pets, which could be contributing to the increase in animal control calls and pet surrenders. 

Cochran said he can only guess whether local animal activity is following national trends for the same reason. 

Property complaints

The second biggest increase in calls has been for weed complaints on residential properties. Cochran said most weed complaints are for property owners who don’t live in the state, and code enforcement has to try to make contact with them every year to get their property taken care of. 

In addition to other policy updates, the city is looking at updating its code enforcement and nuisance ordinance to change the enforcement process. Some of the ordinances haven’t been updated since the 1970s. 

Cochran said under the current process it usually takes most of the summer to get in contact with absentee property owners to clean up their property. So updates to the abatement process would help get these properties cleaned up faster. 

“It’s a huge undertaking and we’re trying to get through it,” Cochran said over the phone Wednesday.

Rainbow Gathering

Some anticipated a large number of problems with the Rainbow Family gathering entering the area this summer, but Cochran reported there have been few calls related to the group’s 50th gathering. 

“We were briefed by the U.S. Forest Service and given worst-case scenarios,” Cochran said. “We were extremely fortunate and haven’t had those issues, and we hope it stays that way.” 

Even though there hasn’t been an increase in calls because of the gathering, there have been more Rainbow people seen around town since the gathering started to wind down after July 4. 

There’s been an increase in overnight use of the Walmart parking lot from campers, RVs and converted school buses. Cochran acknowledged that the police department is aware this is happening, but he emphasized that the department is limited in what it can do.

“We don’t control that property, so in order to clear the property, we would need to have a call from management,” Cochran said.

Many Walmarts allow overnight vehicles and the company often leaves the decision up to local store managers. 

Cochran did say there was one woman who set up a tent in the field across from urgent care and was told to move on because there was a complaint from the store and because the city prohibits camping in parks and public spaces. 

There were also some complaints about a camper parked in a residential area near Sunset Meadows. Cochran said officers are going through the process with the owners of the vehicle to get them to move, but the police department can only go as fast as the process allows. 

According to Cochran, the camper broke down and had to be towed out of the wilderness area where the Rainbow gathering was held. Officers have spoken with the vehicle owners, and they have ordered parts to repair their vehicle. Since the vehicle is not parked in a no-parking zone, the department has to go through the proper process for inoperable vehicles. 

Cochran said this is a unique case and not like a car that broke down on the side of the road and can just be towed. He said there are two people who live in the vehicle. 

“It’s not something we would typically see. You have to weigh all of those things,” Cochran said. “Even with weighing them, we still have a process we have to go through.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.