BY FREDA MIKLIN
On August 10, Cherry Hills Village Chief of Police Jason Lyons presided over a town hall for CHV residents about new criminal activity in the city. In addition to a healthy contingent of residents, CHV City Council Members Al Blum, Dan Sheldon, Earl Hoellen, Susan Maguire, Mayor Pro Tem Randy Weil, and Interim City Manager Jim Thorsen were there.
The chief told residents about a group of criminals who have recently, “targeted areas from Longmont to Castle Rock,” including CHV, where they engaged in a “crime spree,” defined as, “two or more of the same crimes committed by the same offender/s without a cooling off period.” Put more simply, Chief Lyons said, “Over the past few days, a group of bad guys came in–they hit us, they hit us hard, and they left.”
The chief explained, “Saturday night into Sunday morning (August 5 and 6) we had a couple of vehicles stolen, we had a residence or two broken into …No indication (at that time) that suspects were armed,” but there was a suspicion that the perpetrators were the same ones who had committed similar crimes in other cities in Colorado.”
He continued, “Monday night into Tuesday morning (August 7 and 8), the same group came back targeting a similar area. This time, we were able to get photographs and video (and determine that) there were a number of suspects and they were armed.”
The Charlou neighborhood, along with homes on Meade Lane and Random Road were impacted by the overnight criminal activities on the two nights that were identified.
Chief Lyons also reported that, “We know that our vehicles that were stolen from this city were used in other crimes as far away as Commerce City and Broomfield the following night.”
Providing context, Chief Lyon told residents, “The same group was featured on the news several weeks ago by the Parker Police Department.” He named Longmont, Commerce City, Parker, Castle Rock, and Aurora as cities that have been targeted by this group of criminals, in addition to CHV.
In response to a question, the chief shared that the Douglas County Sheriff’s office is the lead agency investigating the group committing this crime spree and they have already arrested one person, adding that a dozen area law enforcement agencies and multiple district attorneys’ offices are involved.
He went on, “Most people who commit property crime do not arm themselves in the commission of that crime…They move down the street…find that target of opportunity…take what they can quickly…and get out of town. It is unusual that people who are targeting property have armed themselves…”
Chief Lyons also told residents about changes and improvements he has made at CHVPD since taking over on May 23, 2022, including the use of automatic license plate readers around the city. He shared, “There are 24 cameras that we have access to and we will have another three coming online soon that the city has funded,” adding that he hopes to have 32 in place by next year.
He explained that the city has seven cameras of its own, the balance being cameras that have been funded and installed by CHV HOAs who have given the police department access to them, continuing, “On any given week, we have around 150 wanted vehicles or people passing just the seven city-funded cameras.” Though some of those 150 hits turn out to not warrant follow-up, he said, “We’re also seeing daily stolen vehicles coming through our city, which isn’t something new, but now we have the technology to see it.”
CHVPD also has begun employing drones that are flown over the city at night, using thermal imaging to look for persons or activity that seem out of place. Officer training has also been increased from 24 hours to 100 hours per year.
While he had residents’ attention, Chief Lyon also talked about other criminal activity in the city.
He shared that there had only been two “crimes against persons” this year and both were road rage incidents, one on Hampden Avenue and one on Belleview Avenue. In both cases, Chief Lyons explained, there were aggravated assaults committed “by people who do not live in our community.” In one case, he explained, “Somebody pulled a knife and showed it through the window,” and in the other, “Somebody fired rounds at a passing vehicle on Hampden.” Chief Lyons emphasized that CHV “is among the safest cities in the entire state,” because of the paucity of crimes against persons.
Crimes that have increased slightly in CHV are burglary and vehicle trespass, considered “crimes against property.” Burglary, he reminded his audience, is taking property that doesn’t belong to the person taking it, but it does not involve a person, only the property. He used, as an example, having something stolen from one’s garage when no one is looking, including if the garage door has been inadvertently left open. Chief Lyons distinguished it from robbery, which he explained “is directed to a person,” and, “It is a felony.”
The other crime that has seen an increase in CHV is what Chief Lyons called, “first degree criminal trespass or vehicle trespass,” which is, “going into a vehicle with the intent to commit another crime while you’re in there,” such as stealing something that is in the car, which is burglary.
After clarifying that all increases in criminal activity in CHV of any kind are a major concern to him, Chief Lyons reported that, “Of the 20 burglaries that we have, year-to-date, 79% of those occurred to…open doors, unlocked doors.”
Similarly, 65% of vehicle trespasses were to vehicles that were not locked. The chief pointed out that seven locked vehicles were broken into at the Brave Church, 3800 E. Hampden Avenue, on one day. “Taking those out of the equation,” he said, “80% of our vehicle trespasses were unlocked vehicle doors.”
There were five vehicles stolen in CHV this year. Four of those had the keys left inside them, Chief Lyons reported, adding, “Sadly, this is true in nearly every community across the United States.”
He continued, “Having CHV citizens feeling safe is the number one priority of every member of (the CHV Police Department),” but, he said, “I need our community to meet us halfway on this.” Though repeating more than once that he did not intend to admonish the citizens of the city, he emphasized what a difference it would make if people “adopted crime mitigation strategies” like locking their doors, turning on their outside lights at night, and “not leaving loaded weapons in your car at night.”
He also recommended that residents remove not only their keys, but their valuables from their vehicles at night, in addition to locking all vehicle doors, as well as garage doors and all exterior home doors.