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Louisville Police switching strategy to protect burned neighborhoods after Marshall Fire

The cost to employ police officers from more than 20 departments to help patrol the areas was becoming unsustainable

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — The shells of burned out neighborhoods from the Marshall Fire might not look like anything valuable.

But thieves know better.

Police are now trying to keep criminals away, without using excess resources to patrol areas that are basically uninhabited.

"Most of that neighborhood is gone, destroyed in the Marshall Fire," said David Hayes, chief of the Louisville Police Department. "We want to make sure that we’re not revictimizing people. Many of the homes were burned completely to the ground but there were still remnants, there was still people’s properties."

For the past six months, officers have patrolled the neighborhoods where nearly 600 homes were lost in his city -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s taken more than 20 other departments to help.  

"As of December 30, we’ve had not just our officers but a number of outside agencies throughout the state coming to assist us in providing anti-looting patrol, routine patrol, and piece of mind for the community," said Hayes. 

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It hasn’t been cheap. This setup has cost between $200,000 and $300,000 a month to patrol the areas, paying overtime for the officers to come into Louisville from other departments. 

Hayes is still figuring out how to pay for it.

"We’re hoping that there’s probably some insurance reimbursement, maybe some reimbursement from the feds or from the state," said Hayes. "If not, it’ll just be an expense that the city will have to find money for."

Louisville police say they’ve seen a handful of looting and burglary calls in the areas affected by the Marshall Fire. In one case, someone burglarized one of the few homes that was spared in one of the neighborhoods. In another case, someone was caught stealing catalytic converters on cars that were destroyed in the fire.

The cost and toll on officers patrolling constantly has become unsustainable. Now, Louisville is putting up a new security system that will keep watch over the areas instead. It’ll be monitored by officers from afar and will be easier to staff.

"It involves cameras it involves a license plate reader," said Hayes. 

Hayes knows why it’s important to protect the burned lots. His house fell victim to the flames also.

"It’s a new perspective. A perspective that I have now as a fire victim," said Hayes. "My house is gone. I don’t know that there was anything left in my house for anyone to steal. But it was about the community, making sure we don’t revictimize other people."

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