Residents The First Line Of Defense In Reporting And Solving Crimes

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It's easy to take living in Payson for granted. You don't have to worry about being mugged on your way to Wal-Mart or putting up steel bars on your windows. In fact, it's quite easy to become lax and oblivious to crime when your chances of being a victim are negligible.

But as the counterfeit incident on Saturday reminds us, we are not immune to the criminal element -- especially from out-of-town welshers.

On that day, three Valley residents slipped into town, planning to inundate Payson with fake money. They managed to get away with it until they crossed paths with an alert store owner who became a perfect witness.

The suspects handed the store owner a counterfeit $100 bill. He scrutinized the money and quickly determined -- by its lack of a watermark and the feel of the paper -- it was a forgery.

Going the critical step further, he copied down the full and accurate license plate of the suspect's truck, and noted the suspect's appearance and dress.

As Payson Police Commander Don Engler will tell you, getting information such as a license plate and a detailed description of a person or vehicle can make or break a case. But the best way for citizens to combat crime is to be good witnesses.

"We really appreciate the community's input," said Engler. "Because the vast majority of these calls is the citizens noticing something out of the ordinary that gets the ball rolling."

Engler said additionally, some criminals have the misperception that they can come to rural areas like Payson, thinking that their malfeasance will go unnoticed.

But Engler said this perception is wrong, and Payson residents are savvy and swift when it comes to reporting anything out of the ordinary.

"I think we're still a fairly close knit community and we take care of each other and that's what makes Payson a great place," said Engler.

The information given to police led to the discovery of a counterfeit lab in a nearby hotel. One of the three suspects also had a semi-automatic weapon -- one capable of firing 25 rounds in rapid succession -- in his vehicle and at his disposal.

Not only is this incident a reminder of the importance of community policing, but that our actions do get some very dangerous people off the streets.

"There's just a few of us police out there," said Engler. "And when you have citizens reporting the crimes, it makes this a better place to live."

Because of a store owner who was thinking responsibly, and beyond his own front counter, it is likely that several businesses in town were spared economic loss. Perhaps the town was spared even greater harm such as the loss of life.

Although the store owner preferred to remain anonymous -- concerned for his safety -- we owe him our gratitude for being a keen, observant witness, and a responsible citizen.

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