As part of an ongoing series of interviews with law enforcement officials from around the country, we spoke with Jim Hloucal, the Chief of Police for Gillette, WY. Below are excerpts from that interview.
INMYAREA.COM: You were with the Gillette police department for 19 years before becoming chief of Police. What are the most valuable things you learned about Gillette during that time that prepared you to run the department effectively?
HLOUCAL: My entire career has been spent in Gillette. The community, the local government, and the police department are very close and hold each other to a very high standard. The most important thing is to see a career in the police department as a service.
INMYAREA.COM: What was your first action item after becoming the Chief of Police? What was the first thing you wanted to change?
HLOUCAL: The department is always changing and is extremely complex. First off, the Policies and Procedures were extremely outdated. There were 3 separate policy manuals and it was not clear which one to follow. It took 10 months, starting from the ground up to consolidate all the manuals into one. The new policy manual is based on police standards that give the best guidance and support to the officers.
INMYAREA.COM: Why do you think Gillette is one of the safest cities in Wyoming?
HLOUCAL: Having a community oriented police philosophy. Community involvement is key when you only have 7-9 officers patrolling over 20 square miles and over 30,000 people. Having a great partnership with liquor stores and bars is also very important. Officers can diffuse situations early before they get out of hand.
All in all, it's the community that feels comfortable enough to speak up when they see something. The community's trust in the officers and vice versa make Gillette one of the safest cities to live in.
INMYAREA.COM: What has been the biggest challenge to keep the people of Gillette safe?
HLOUCAL: Recruiting. The number of people applying to become police officers has drastically decreased over the years. It is hard to find good, educated people who have the right sense of service and commitment.
INMYAREA.COM: What plans for the future do you have to preserve this level of safety?
HLOUCAL: Continue to focus on the policing strategy and find new effective ways to recruit officers. With the energy industry slowing down, it gives the department a chance to breath and strategize. There are also plans to consolidate with the Sheriff's dispatch center. Also, there will be technology innovations that will save officers time and make them able to focus on more important aspects of their job.
The long, flat stretches of Wyoming's prairie are the perfect highways for driving fast. This speeding, however, is not always absent minded, and Wyoming is frequently home to wild police chases.
Drug charges are not uncommon in Wyoming. While crime rates overall have declined, drug-related incidents have remained steady in the state.
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Crime Trends In Wyoming
Overall, the rate of violent crime in Wyoming is 219.3 per 100,000; currently, Wyoming has a population of about 568,000 inhabitants. The rate of murder is low (3.2 per 100,000), while property crimes are much more commonplace.
In 2011, the rate of crime in Wyoming actually decreased by 6.41 percent overall, with higher decreases in some categories, like arson (down 20 percent in 2011). Some violent crimes, however, did increase. One such increase was murder, which climbed over 100 percent to 15 total cases in 2011, with most victims and offenders in the 20-29 age range.
Wyoming has had a history of drug-related crimes, including methamphetamine-related incidents. In 2011, there were thousands of seizures of methamphetamine and hundreds of arrests. Methamphetamine is known to cause behaviors that may have impacted the violent crime rate in Wyoming, including murders, domestic violence and assaults related to its abuse.
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Best And Worst Of Wyoming
Laramie and Gillette are the safest big cities in Wyoming. Both have populations near 30,000 inhabitants, and very low rates of violent crime (42 and 29 counts, respectively), with no murders to speak of in either city.Cody, Evanston and Worland are also considered to be among the safest places to live in Wyoming, though it may be based on their small sizes. Cody has a population of 9730 and a violent crime count of 14, Evanston has a population of 12,311 and a violent crime count of seven, and Worland has a population of 5,157 with a violent crime count of nine. As in the larger cities, there have been no murders, with most crimes being property-based.
Casper and Rock Springs are the most dangerous cities in Wyoming. Casper has a population of 56,000 and a violent crime count of 108, including two murders and six rapes, as well as 2,000 property crimes. Rock Springs, with a population of 21,000, has a similar 100 violent crimes, including 20 rapes, but lower property crimes and no murders. Still, while it may be relatively high for Wyoming, Casper's crime rate is rated as average or low compared to the rest of the United States.