Living here is a crime….

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    Crime statistics can be misleading, but raw data, when taken in proper context always reveal the truth, no matter how hard politicians and appointed officials try to deter you from the facts.

    As a history and constitution teacher in Shoshoni, I laid this little tidbit out for my students one year. “There were more firearm-related murders in Shoshoni, than in Tokyo last year.”


    Think about that for a moment. Shoshoni, the tiny desert town on the edge of the vast expanse to somewhere else had five people killed with guns that year, four with handguns and one via a 12-gauge shotgun blast.

    Tokyo, one of the world’s largest cities in the early 90s had an average population of 33 million people. There were four handgun-related murders on average.

    Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Shoshoni with just 650 people, having more murders than Tokyo.

    If you accepted the last sentence, you fell into the trap used by politicians and slanted 24-hour talking heads on TV and the Internet.


    The actual murder rate in Tokyo was much higher, one for every 400,000 people. The Japanese just don’t use guns.

    As a realistic comparison, the average murder rate in the USA is 34 times as high as in Japan, that means 34 for every 400,000 citizens. Yes, it is ridiculously high, and aside from a handful of Latin American and African third-world countries, we have the highest murder rate on earth.

    Which brings us to the friendly confines of Fremont County, Wyoming.


    According to FBI crime statistics, Riverton has almost twice the average crime rate for Wyoming towns. We suffer crime at a rate 194% higher than our fellow Wyomingites in Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Lander, and Jackson Hole.

    Close observers are quick to notice that these statistics are misleading in themselves since a major component of crime in other communities isn’t even prosecuted except in extreme cases in Riverton. We are the shoplifting capital of Wyoming, with no other city even close in this criminal category. If we prosecuted shoplifting at the same rate as other Wyoming communities, our crime statistics would be north of 400% of the state average.

    We’ve all heard assistant managers from the big box store just north of town tell us that their store is ranked number one in the nation (note, nation, not state) when it comes to inventory lost to shoplifting.


    If someone leaves the store with (fill in the black I’ve heard various totals) less than $700 in merchandise, they’re not detained, charged, or prosecuted at all.

    When that’s the law (or lack of law) followed, it’s no surprise that it’s open season for quick fingers stuffing goods into pockets and walking out the front door.

    When shoplifting is allowed to run rampant, how can you expect vagrancy, malicious destruction of both public and private property, and open drunkenness to even get noticed? The quick answer is you can’t.

    Does that mean local law enforcement isn’t doing its job?

    That’s not as easy an answer since the crime capital of Wyoming, and one of the deepest pockets of criminal activity in the entire six contiguous states surrounding us has just 10 police officers. That’s right, only 10 police officers are currently employed in Riverton.

    If state averages were followed, we’d have a force of 22 men and women to protect and serve the community. Maybe, just maybe, this level of police presence would have an effect on the crime wave we are forced to endure to just exist in Riverton.

    This summer it has grown exponentially worse, especially in the two blocks north and south of Main Street.

    Businesses are now forced to physically toss panhandlers and drunks out of their establishments. Calling the police can help at times, but many times the handful of officers on duty are dealing with other crimes or intervening in domestic violence situations and the ever-present fender benders in parking lots and city streets.

    There are not enough hours in the day for adequate police coverage with our current complement of officers, and it’s not likely to get better since Riverton police officers are woefully underpaid in comparison with other communities in the state.
    Lower pay, longer hours, fatigue, and lack of support by our elected political officials is no way to entice potential officers to apply to work in the crime capital of Wyoming.

    It’s not just the businesses on Main Street that suffer. The largely elderly community that now makes up the majority of Riverton suffers from an unabated criminal element that wanders the streets at night, pounding on doors, breaking windows, and terrorizing the citizens.  

    If you’ve driven south on Broadway toward Main Street in the evening over the last few weeks odds are you’ve been lucky enough to see the gangs of drunks staggering in the street, trying to stop cars, and throwing objects at passing vehicles.

    The inner cities of America have nothing on the growing situation in Riverton.

    We are the laughingstock of the state and many of us will have to admit that friends in other communities routinely ask us how and why we put up with this nonsense.

    The situation must change. Call your council members, call the mayor, call the city administrator, and demand better.

    We must start by supporting the thin blue line that now constitutes law enforcement in Riverton. The county and state are not exempt from this either. Unified law enforcement works in the county, why not in the city?

    Things never change by ignoring the problem, the issues only escalate by looking the other way.

    If you think the situation is exaggerated, ask for a ride-along with a Riverton police officer, that way you can quickly prove your point that there is nothing to see here. (Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have your pretensions shattered in witnessing what an officer faces during a shift.)

    I’ve ridden with Riverton, and Lander police officers a few times over the years, and ridden more often with Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies on late/night early morning patrols. They were eye-opening, even the boring patrols that only had a few stops.

    Knowledge is power. Knowing what the situation our citizens, businesses, and officers are exposed to each day puts a human face on the problem. Connections lead to understanding and understanding to solutions.

    Riverton needs solutions or we’ll just have to accept the drunks, roving gangs, meth labs, and growing abuse as the new mantra of the community.


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