Eagle County sheriff keeps promise, adds deputies for Basalt and El Jebel
When James Van Beek campaigned for Eagle County Sheriff in fall 2014, he pledged to look at staffing of deputies in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county and adjust if needed.
Now that he’s in office, Van Beek is carrying through on his promise.
Van Beek coordinated an analysis that involved Basalt law enforcement and administrative officials, county staff and advisers from within his department. They assessed population and demands for services and then brainstormed on how to best serve that part of the county.
The result: The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is going to add two deputies for the Basalt and El Jebel area to join the four already patrolling there, Van Beek said.
The goal is to hire the deputies by July and start their training. It will be six to nine months, depending on experience, before they are ready to patrol on their own, he said. The Eagle County commissioners approved funding for the positions.
Van Beek’s preference is to have new deputies who will live in the midvalley or close to it. Of the four existing deputies patrolling the Roaring Fork Valley, two live in Eagle County and two live in Garfield County close to the Eagle County line.
Van Beek said the growth in the Basalt and El Jebel area warrants the addition of deputies.
“We’ve got about 25 percent of the county’s population sitting over in that corner,” he said.
The number of calls in the Roaring Fork Valley is slightly less than 25 percent, he said. The reason he wants to add deputies isn’t because of a crime wave but to create more complete service. There is coverage 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Adding deputies will allow the Sheriff’s Office to overlap coverage at the times that it makes sense.
Extra boots on the ground will also result in more mingling with midvalley residents, Van Beek said. As deputies integrate more, they will learn more about people’s concerns, hear more about activities in the midvalley and become more active, he said.
More deputies also mean more backups. Currently, Eagle County deputies rely on Basalt police and sometimes deputies from Garfield and Pitkin counties for backup.
In Eagle County overall there’s been a steady increase in the number of calls. However, the more eye-catching factor is that the number of serious calls is up, Van Beek said. There have been five homicides or attempted homicides in the county in the past 18 months. Typically there is only one every three or four years.
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Encouraged by a two-week decline in the county’s coronavirus case numbers, Garfield County is seeking permission to adopt a 5-Star business variance program which would allow certified businesses to operate under looser restrictions then where the county is on the COVID-19 dial.