Star Valley Residents Learn About Police Services


Residents of Star Valley Tuesday night got a glimpse of what type of law enforcement they will be receiving from the Payson Police Department.

Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner and patrol officer Joni Varga attended a Tuesday town meeting to talk to the public.

Gartner said the average experience of his officers is about 14 years, adding that there are a number that have more than 20 years experience.

"The down side is some of us old guys will be retiring," he said.

Gartner said he was surprised a month ago when discussions began about the Payson Police Department providing service to the town of Star Valley.

He said in 2005 Payson looked at annexing the town, so the idea of expanding its service to Star Valley was a little surprising.

He said the community of Star Valley is receiving the same type of service as what Payson is getting.

He said from a logistical standpoint, the response times to Star Valley will be quicker than what the Gila County Sheriff's Office could have provided.

The downside, he said, is that there will be longer response times for Payson calls.

He said there is not a lot of time to do traffic patrol, so the town may not see the PPD handing out many traffic tickets.

Gartner, reading from the reports, said there had been three arrests in Star Valley since the PPD took over law enforcement July 1. He said there are times when the reports do not become available for 10 to 14 days after the incident.

So far the PPD has been in Star Valley 130 times on preventive patrols with another 79 calls for service.

Animal control issues such as a dog at large will be handled by the town of Star Valley.

The police chief then fielded questions from the audience.

Ray Lyons, owner of the Star Vale Park, asked if the PPD would patrol his property since it was private. Gartner said since there is access to the public, the park is being patrolled.

Mayor Chuck Heron said the town is a learning curve to the PPD officers as most do not know the town yet.

When asked what the residents of Star Valley could do to help the police department, Gartner said neighbors should be the eyes and ears for each other.

Heron briefly spoke about the town code that, he said, the PPD will follow once all the kinks are worked out. Currently, the police officers are following Arizona Revised Statutes.

When told the police department could make a lot of money by watching for speeders on Highway 260, Gartner joked that once locals started being ticketed, the mayor would be receiving phone calls.

Heron said the 45-mph signs in Star Valley will be moved to give drivers more time to slow down when entering the town limits.

Varga, who lives in Star Valley, said one of the challenges that officers may face are two bar incidents at the same time -- with one being in Payson and the other one occurring in Star Valley. Fortunately, she said, that has yet to happen.

Varga also asked the public -- when calling in -- to give good directions because the town is new to most officers.

When asked if there was anything the PPD could do about an adult entertainment business that operates in town, the police chief said there was nothing that could be done.

He said typically there is some crime that follows adult entertainment business, and added if there is illegal activity that is spotted, the police department should be called.

"It was disturbing to the entire area when it opened," Gartner said. Heron added the adult business owner found a loophole in the county statutes that allowed him to open the adult entertainment business. That loophole no longer exists.

"Right now it's there," Heron said. "People have told me they will take five Pete's Places to one meth lab."

Gartner said he thinks his department can service Star Valley well.

"You are such a new town. There are so many things you have to discover," the police chief said. "I think we can do a good job of providing coverage out here. If there is any service where you need us out here, let us know."

Heron said in time, Star Valley will have its own police service.

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