DURANGO, Colo. (AP) – Colorado’s top federal prosecutor said the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes have improved public safety and stepped up law enforcement on their reservations in southwest Colorado.
“We’ve set expectations, and we’ve shown there can be progress,” U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said. “We’re just going to keep working on increasing enforcement down there.”
Last year, the reservations’ high violent crime rate and law enforcement staffing and funding concerns prompted federal and tribal authorities to make improvements.
The tribal areas had a murder rate of 75 per 100,000 people, compared with 3.7 per 100,000 for the rest of Colorado, according to figures from the U.S. attorney last year.
Eid’s office has trained more than 300 local, state and tribal officers to investigate violent crimes on the reservations. The officers were “cross-deputized” to allow them to make federal arrests on the reservations.
Janelle Doughty, director of the Department of Justice for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, pushed to start the cross-deputizing, Eid said. The program has been expanded to more than 24 tribes in 15 states.
“Her idea has really taken hold,” Eid said.
Doughty recently received the Public Safety Professional of the Year award from the National Native American Law Enforcement Association, which represents about 560 Indian tribes.
Eid wants to establish a full-time federal courthouse in Durango to deal with violent crimes on tribal land. He is concerned that too many criminal cases are being handled in Denver, 340 miles away.
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe also is working to prosecute crimes locally and has received recognition for bringing various agencies together. The agencies included the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, the San Juan County (Utah) Sheriff’s Office and the BIA.
Peter Ortego, lawyer for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, said authorities are addressing the “jurisdictional nightmare.”
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