After a series of robberies in Wyoming, Sheriff Brian Kozak decided to approach the problem in a unique way – by putting together a Wild West-style group of volunteers to round up the thieves before the holiday shopping season.
The troop will be decked out in cowboy hats and uniform to prevent lawlessness and theft in the community.
“When I spoke to the store owners here in Cheyenne and some of the large retail stores, they told me that thefts have increased in the last few months,” Kozak said Cowboy State Daily.
“They would just feel more comfortable if they were present in a civilian uniform – someone who can call the police immediately,” he added.
Kozak said that with crime on the rise across Wyoming, there is a perception that criminals are not being caught or prosecuted. But he insists that’s not true, and the force was formed to make this clear to the public.
After a series of robberies in Wyoming, Sheriff Brian Kozak decided to approach the problem in a unique way – by putting together a Wild West-style group of volunteers to round up the thieves before the holiday shopping season
The local community is feeling the effects of rising crime rates, particularly small businesses in the area. Laramie Police have also reported an increase in the number of stolen vehicles in the area
“There seems to be a perception that (thieves) will not be prosecuted; “However, our new district attorney is doing a really good job of prosecuting cases and going back and prosecuting (old) cases,” Kozak said.
Laramie County District Attorney Sylvia Hackl was sworn in in January of this year with her primary focus on criminal justice reform.
One of their priorities would be “establishing communications with all stakeholders,” including crime victims, law enforcement and the courts, according to the Wyoming Business Report.
Kozak said members of the force will not make arrests, even though Wyoming law allows for citizen arrests of burglars and thieves.
However, the duties of the squad members only include reporting the crime and they are not tasked with taking action against criminals or arresting them.
Kozak said he hopes the program will also lead to a sheriff’s search and rescue program.
Applicants must meet certain requirements to qualify as a member of the squad.
Posse members must be at least 18 years old, have a GED or high school diploma, a valid driver’s license and must not have committed any crimes, the outlet said.
Kozak said the local community is feeling the impact of rising crime rates, particularly small businesses in the area.
Laramie Police have also reported an increase in the number of stolen vehicles in the area.
At least 10 reports of stolen vehicles have been filed in Albany County in the last 30 days, according to Laramie Live News.
In addition to the “Wild West” force, new laws are also being passed in Wyoming to combat the increase in thefts.
A person convicted of four thefts in Wyoming could now face a felony and up to a decade in prison if they steal again, according to Wyoming records.
House Bill 112 – Theft penalty for the fifth or subsequent offense took effect July 1.
It used to be a felony in Wyoming to steal anything worth over $1,000 or a “firearm, horse, mule, sheep, cattle, buffalo or pig” of any value.
“But the new law has made a fifth conviction for theft a felony, regardless of the price of the stolen goods,” the paper said.
Misdemeanor thefts in Wyoming are punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of $750, while felony thefts are punishable by jail time and fines of up to $10,000.
While the group is committed to fighting crime, they also made sure they would do it in style.
When he became sheriff, Kozak says the first thing his deputies asked for was cowboy hats, so he gave them some.
“They like the tradition, the history of the western sheriff, especially here in Wyoming,” he told the Cowboy State Daily.
Kozak plans to provide cowboy hats to posse members as well.
“They all wear hats. In fact, we exhibit them,” Kozak added. “And I think the uniform looks good.”