Deputy decries graffiti increase in Evergreen

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By Vicky Gits

A graffiti problem has been gathering momentum for about a month in Evergreen, especially downtown, and a Jeffco sheriff’s deputy is determined to write an end to the vandalism saga.

Deputy Dale Wizieck, the resident crime prevention specialist for the the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, wants to put a stop to the crime, which costs property owners thousands of dollars.

Wizieck made an appearance Sept. 3 at the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership meeting in the Evergreen Hotel downtown.

“It’s beginning to look like something from a big city,” Wizieck said. “It wasn’t even a problem a month ago. I don’t know what triggered it.”

Graffiti have appeared on the abandoned cleaners’ building downtown and on numerous stop signs in Hiwan and in the Conifer area. Someone also spray-painted the $6,000 Lariat Loop signs near the Mountain Village in Evergreen right after they were installed in May.

Joe Tempel, president of the Lariat Loop Heritage Alliance, said he was able to clean the signs using a combination of alcohol, fine steel wool and car wax. The process took five hours. But that same night vandals also struck a half dozen other places in the vicinity, Tempel said.

Dennis Dunn, owner of The Wild Eye Gallery in Evergreen, said the graffiti problem seems to be increasing in the last few months, especially in the tunnel under the downtown intersection.

“All of a sudden there’s a lot of kids hanging around town who don’t live here,” Dunn said. “They are finding weird things to do.”

Some graffiti are obviously the work of individuals with stencils and spray paint, like the one saying, “Keep Denver a graffiti free city.” Another one says, “Turn on TV and 1. get bored.”

A serious incident of tagging combined with destructive vandalism also was reported at the tennis bubbles recently.

Judging by the evidence, it looks more like the handiwork of local kids, not gang members, Wizieck osbserved.

Wizieck hopes someone from the community will see something suspicious and help police catch the culprits.

Don’t be embarrassed to call 911 if you see something suspicious, even if you aren’t sure it’s important enough, Wizieck said — even a graffiti attack qualifies for 911 response.

“If you see somtheing and you do a double take, call immediately,” Wizieck said. “It’s better than two weeks later.”

Wizieck counts on community members to be his eyes and ears, but too often people will wait days or weeks before calling, and the culprits have disappeared.

Depending on the extent of the damage, graffiti are either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Deputy specializes in prevention

Wizieck has 35 years of law-enforcement experience, including 23 years with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. He has patrolled in the mountains for 17 years, and he became the first crime prevention specialist based in the mountains two years ago. His office is next to the Evergreen Library.

Wizieck is available for an array of crime-prevention activities and seminars. He is happy to attend any homeowner group, no matter how small, to help set up a neighborhood crime watch, talk about child safety or anything else. His territory stretches from El Rancho to Deckers and from Morrison to Pine Junction.

His biggest frustration, next to identity theft, is people who leave their houses unlocked and the car keys in the ignition, thinking that it’s OK because they live in the mountains.

People tend to be a little too trusting, he said, recalling a recent incident in which a man watched someone drive away in a car that he thought was safely parked in the driveway. The car owner found a ride and followed at a discreet distance until the police apprehended the thief in the King Soopers parking lot.

Wizieck warned chamber members never to put their outgoing mail in a box on their porch or in a blue curbside mailbox, both of which are prime targets of mail thieves.

Operatives have gone so far as to steal the blue mail receptacles, put in false plywood bottoms and remove the contents on a nightly basis. One even put a fake mailbox on the post office premises. (It was removed before the culprits could be ambushed.)

Wizieck recommended delivering mail to the inside of the post office or handing it directly to the mail carrier if possible. He doesn’t even like the idea of drive-up mailboxes on post office grounds, which can be invaded after hours.

He warned against paying for items by check, because thieves take the checks, wash off the ink and write in a big amount payable to themselves, which they can cash at the nearest bank.

Wizieck said it is better to use gel pens, which tend to smear and aren’t good for check-washing, rather than ballpoint pens, if you must write checks.

Wizieck can be reached at his office number, 303-670-8125. He is available to citizens for presentations on crime prevention, child safety, realty watch and neighborhood watch organizing. He also will perform home and business security surveys and is certified in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

Crime-prevention tips

The top nine ways to prevent becoming a crime victim, according to Deputy Dale Wizieck, Jefferson County crime prevention specialist.

1. Always lock your car doors, even in your driveway and garage.

2. Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car or at home.

3. Always keep your garage doors closed and locked when you are not working in the area.

4. Always lock your house, even when you are home.

5. Never mail checks at a street mailbox. Always walk inside the post office to mail them. It's best to pay bills on line.

6. Always use a gel pen to write checks.

7. Never leave your purse or wallet in a grocery cart unattended, not even while bending down to get something from a bottom shelf.

8. Never give anyone your Social Security number or bank account numbers, even if they claim they are from the bank.

9. Never leave your car running unattended to warm up.