Community still seeking solutions

LA JARA —Eagerness to find solutions replaced anger when some 50 persons met for a community engagement meeting Tuesday night at the Centauri band room.

Organized by Keith Christensen, the meeting followed up a heated meeting Nov. 15 at the Sanford Community Center.

Identified early as a stem for some of the burglaries, robberies and thefts that have plagued the county, the proliferation of opiates demanded a solution.

Joseph Valdez pointed out that patients often demand several prescriptions at a time and physicians are learning how to treat pain without opiates.

“This needs all of us working together,” Valdez said, suggesting patients ask doctors about their medications, whether any one of them is an opioid.

Valdez said the Conejos County Prevention Coalition is keeping parents engaged about what is happening in the schools and what could be happening at home, but children need education.

He suggested the legislature mandate classes on drug awareness all the way through high school so students will be well informed.

A woman in the audience asked what could be done for students who already have problems and Valdez suggested getting students who are out back in school.

Environmental Protection Officer Rodney King said he is becoming involved due to the fact that drugs have become a severe threat to the environment of the schools. He wants to help work on the dropout problem.

A man who arrived late and stayed for a short while asked what could happen with persons who want to be deputized.

Conejos County Commissioner Mitch Jarvies said deputies have to be certified so not just anyone could serve.

“We once had our little piece of heaven,” Jarvies said. “Now we do and it’s all our fault.”

An advocate of neighborhood watch, Jarvies said, “Pay attention. Let them know we’re watching.”

Linda Anderson Smith asked if coalitions would grow or not. She said the official plan should be having meetings open to the public.

Christensen said the first core group meeting would be Jan. 23, when superintendents would discuss problems in the schools.

The Colorado Dept. of Education offers grants to hire counselors and put prevention education in the classrooms. It was noted that a program in Alamosa enjoys multi-agency support.

King said he could see prevention is a problem and the community needs to come up with solutions to prevent or minimize the threat. He offered to facilitate a meeting to seek and arrive at the solutions.

“I’m interested in coming up with solutions,” King said. “The problem is generally not the kids, but the parents.”

The district attorney will get together with the communities regarding the proper way to conduct community watch.

A woman who had suffered personal crime said there had been no help from law enforcement. She suggested she would just have to accept it.

Assistant 12th Judicial District Attorney Ashley McCuaig said his office has three victims’ advocates, so if a case has been filed, they can put her in touch with an attorney.

“Victims who want to participate, to be involved, can come in and I will help,” McCuaig told her.

“If I know about it on my end, I can put it through.”

State Representative Donald Valdez (D-La Jara) acknowledged problems with the sheriff’s department, with calls not being returned. “If you see something wrong, call (Colorado State Patrol) dispatch.”

Neither the sheriff nor any of his deputies was at the meeting.

McCuaig told another women in the crowd that he could possibly recover her stolen items if she has serial numbers and descriptive information.

“If I can identify who took it, I will follow up.”

A man asked McCuaig, “If I call and police don’t show up until the next day, then what?”
A request for mutual aid has been made by the Conejos County Sheriff to the Colorado State Patrol and Trooper L.R. Curry said he would respond if he got a call, but if a deputy responded, he would stand down.

“In my opinion, you guys need more deputies,” Curry said, noting that the number of troopers covering the San Luis Valley has grown from one to three. “It’s not the best, but better.”

Conejos County Commissioner John Sandoval pointed out that the state funds the public defender and the counties must fund the district attorney. “The guy who wants to get someone off has more resources than those who want to put him away.”

He said the Department of Human Services is working with families who are at risk. “Keep in mind, we’re working on many issues with the money we have.”

“The sheriff runs the jail, we just fund him.”

Sandoval said, “We are trying to be as frugal as we can with your money.”

Christensen closed the meeting with the observation, “They can see the ball is rolling, let’s continue to look out for one another and reach out to our neighbors.”

Caption: State Rep. Donald Valdez (D-La Jara) listens as a member of the audience discusses funding for law enforcement./Photo by Sylvia Lobato