LA VERKIN – It may seem like a quiet town, with fewer than 5,000 residents and almost as much livestock and pets. But as quiet as the town may feel, it has been known to harbor many who are hiding out from law enforcement, and the local police department says, “No more!”
Police Chief Lloyd Watkins said officers have been tracking down those with outstanding warrants who think they can hide in the small town.
“People can’t hide here anymore,” Watkins said. “We care about what’s going on in our community.”
Watkins has three full-time officers and that means the La Verkin Police Department is understaffed. It would take at least two more full-time officers to handle 24-hour coverage. Right now, they are relying on the County officers to help them out. But being understaffed, the officers often put themselves in dangerous situations.
“They respond to calls alone that they shouldn’t be responding on,” he said.
There is often only one La Verkin officer on at a time, and that means they have to decide whether to wait for county back up, who may be coming from as far away as Apple Valley or Leeds, or go on the call alone.
“It is not in their nature to stand by while something is going on,” Watkins said. “They’re dedicated professionals who have a tough job and they’re doing it by themselves. That’s a lot harder than working in a big city.”
All but one of the officers are residents of La Verkin, and they all care about the community, he said. That’s why Watkins said he can appreciate that the City Council hasn’t raised taxes to help pay for the extra staffing needed.
“As a resident, I’m glad they didn’t raise taxes,” Watkins said. “As a chief, it’s hard.”
He said when the economy picks up, he hopes the police department can work on getting cars and gear for the officers, as well as hire the additional officers needed. The police vehicles currently have a lot of miles on them, and officers have to be careful when in pursuit.
In the meantime, he said they are being as careful and efficient as possible with what money they do spend. Recently they were able to buy the officers bulletproof vests with proceeds of a grant the Department received.
“You don’t spend taxpayer money lightly,” Watkins said.
La Verkin currently receives more calls than do Leeds and Santa Clara, although those cities are larger. Watkins said the calls vary and he can’t pin down the problem to one thing. One day they will be dealing with theft, the next day they might be making drug arrests. Detective Travis Romney, who also works with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, recently investigated two cases of child pornography.
However, Watkins said La Verkin is a good place to raise his children, and he receives a lot of support from the community.
“This community is very willing to step up and help out,” he said. “There are a lot of great people here, and that’s what makes things work out.”
Watkins said when the city is able to build the new animal shelter, he is going to need volunteers to help take care of the animals. He is currently hiring a part time animal control officer.
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