With the holiday shopping season upon us, Laramie County’s Sheriff Brian Kozak has come up with a unique solution to the recent rise in thefts - a “Wild West”-style posse of volunteers.
The posse, decked out in cowboy hats and uniforms, will be patrolling the streets of Cheyenne multiple times a week, with the goal of discouraging lawlessness.
According to Kozak, shop owners have reported an increase in theft in the area in recent months. He believes that having a visible presence of everyday citizens acting as a unified force to protect their community will help dissuade further crime.
“They would just feel better having a civilian uniform presence — someone who can immediately call the police,” said Kozak.
Kozak also stressed that despite the impression that criminals won’t get caught, District Attorney Sylvia Hackl is doing an exemplary job of prosecuting criminal cases in Laramie County.
“Our new district attorney is doing a really good job of prosecuting cases and going back and prosecuting (old cases),” said Kozak.
The posse will not be making arrests, however, and will strictly be expected to report suspicious activity. The only qualifications to be part of the posse are to be at least 18 years old, possess a valid driver’s license with no felonies, and have completed a GED or high school diploma.
Additionally, the introduction of a new law in Wyoming has also made a difference in preventing theft. The law allows for prior offenders to face a felony charge and up to ten years in prison if caught stealing again. Furthermore, someone who has committed a fifth theft can face a felony charge, regardless of the price of the stolen item.
Kozak is also hoping the program will lead to a sheriff’s search and rescue program in the future. There has been a monetary incentive for the brave souls who choose to volunteer with the posse - Kozak has bestowed cowboy hats to the members of the posse, in appreciation of their hard work.
So far, the posse has made a positive impact on the community, and Kozak is determined to continue his fight against crime. He firmly believes that with the right resources and dedication, Laramie County can become the safest community in Wyoming.
“We want to send a message out to those who would like to do things in our community that they shouldn’t,” said Kozak. “They've been warned.”