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Raton holds town vandalism meeting

 ‘Stop vandalism now

RATON — “We have a real problem,” Paul Jenkins of Grow Raton told a crowd of over 100 people attending a Monday evening meeting at International Bank concerning vandalism in the community. The meeting was sponsored by Grow Raton, the City of Raton and featured comments by city manager Scott Berry, Raton Police Chief John Garcia, district court Judge Emilo Chavez and Seth Ward, regional coordinator of the Colfax County chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mountain Region. Discussions at the meeting were centered on finding solutions to the problem and one idea that met approval was creation of a local Crime Stoppers program. Jenkins said over $1,600 had been raised to that end. Ron Schmeits, on behalf of International Bank, presented a check for $500 and a representative of High Country Crime Stoppers presented a check for $2,000, saying their group would stand shoulder to shoulder with Raton as they move forward to establish their own group. Jenkins told the crowd the local crime stoppers organization’s board of directors should form a 501(c)(3) status for the organization. Berry addressed the audience with an overview of basic city services, which he said were running at maximum proficiency. He said any additional police or fire department growth would require additional sources of funding. He said he hoped establishment of the Crime Stoppers

program could help alleviate some of the vandalism problems. Chief Garcia emphasized the need for additional private security surveillance cameras in local businesses and awareness and action from the public. “The more eyes we have, the more arrests,” he said. It was clearly stated that the time for community policing is at hand and it is time to partner up, with the community helping the police department by reporting any suspicious activity immediately and using surveillance equipment whenever possible. Berry and Chief Garcia both agreed video camera technology has advanced and current police cameras should be upgraded and officials were looking into that issue, but Chief Garcia reminded those in the audience that private investment by businesses and residents for surveillance equipment was just as important as anything the local government could do. Garcia told the audience, “We are knocking on doors, trying to resolve this vandalism problem but we need community involvement.” He said the police department logged 45 calls concerning vandalism, also known as criminal mischief, in November 2015 versus seven calls for the same type of crime in November 2014. During audience discussion, comments included many suspects are caught for this type of behavior, but time and time again they are released by the court system. Judge Chavez responded by saying it is important to discuss with judges any circumstance you wish brought before the court as the court only sees what is presented to it. One audience member stated there are many juveniles who have no mentors or guidance in place thus leading to crimes being committed. At this point, Ward introduced himself as the local Big Brothers Big Sisters representative. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a organization that promotes mentoring relationships between adults and youth in communities in order to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”  (www.bbbsmountainregion.org) This ongoing benefit is provided at no charge. Ward was well received by a concerned audience looking for a solution to the pressing vandalism occurring in Raton. In closing, it was stated with Monday night’s donations, the local Crime Stoppers fund is now up to $5,000. It was also pointed out the usual Crime Stoppers reward is $500 so the public was encouraged to continue donating to the program. The contact number for local donations is 1-575-245-Grow. Jenkins said at the conclusion of the meeting, “We need everybody involved.”