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Navajo Law & Order Committee Hears Security Woes of Tohajiilee Chapter

Navajo Law & Order Committee Hears Security Woes of Tohajiilee Chapter
December 03
16:44 2020

Committee Hears Woes of Tohajiilee Chapter

By John Christian Hopkins

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc with police staffing in Tohajiilee – and the criminals are taking advantage. The Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order Committee recently heard a report on the situation in New Mexico, west of Albuquerque.

“This community, right now, is suffering from the lack of public safety coverage and we have started talks about how council can assist both Tohajiilee and also Alamo,” LOC Chairwoman Eugenia Charles-Newton said.

The Division of Public Safety currently alternates its Crownpoint Police District personnel to provide coverage to Tohajiilee and Alamo, DPS Executive Director Jesse Delmar said.

Jesse Delmar

“That is Navajo Nation jurisdiction and it is our responsibility to provide services,” said Delmar. “We try our best to accommodate those communities with our services the best we can.”

“We need your help, Mr. Delmar,” Council Delegate Jamie Henio said. “How do we work with the community at Tohajiilee and the chapter officials there to bring forth some sort of peace and comfort to them when it comes to public safety?”

Law enforcement across the Crownpoint Police District has been impacted by the COVID pandemic, Police Captain Martin Page said.

“Manpower is short,” he added.

The Crownpoint police department does have a sergeant and one officer assigned to patrol the Tohajiilee area, Page said. 

Two other officers assigned out there have resigned, he said.

“So we are in the process of trying to build up the man power out there,” Page explained.

Charles-Newton said recent news coverage of issues Tohajiilee is facing due to insufficient law enforcement services prompted a community meeting with Henio, local officials and herself on November 19.

“They also had their water truck that they deliver water with, two individuals came and cut out the catalytic converters from the truck,” Charles-Newton said. “The truck was parked at a health care facility when it was vandalized.”

In response, local chapter officials indicated private security personnel would be hired to patrol the health care property, she added.

Delmar acknowledged the long-standing effort by the communities to establish a substation for law enforcement services.

“I know it’s been so long now that the people there in Tohajiilee and Alamo – there’s an outcry,” Delmar said.

According to Sergeant Tommy Rogers the Crownpoint Police District reported 17 commissioned police officers currently servicing the entire district, in addition to five sergeants.

The district has six personnel serving during its first and second shifts and seven personnel serving during the third shift. Two personnel are specifically assigned to Tohajiilee and Alamo.

“Everybody gets pulled from out here in Tohajiilee and Alamo and they get sent to other parts of the district, wherever they’re needed,” Tohajiilee resident Jimmy Secatero said. “But, our response time when somebody calls from Tohajiilee to Crownpoint is at least three to four hours; if not, they don’t come at all.”

Back in November, there was a head-on collision in the area and the Laguna Police Department, Bernalillo County sheriffs and New Mexico State Police responded, Secatero said. It took Navajo Police about four hours to get there, he added.

Delmar indicated support for a police substation in Tohajiilee, but said it will require further discussion and collaboration with the LOC.

Delegate Otto Tso, of Tuba City, also expressed interest in a Tohajiilee substation.

“Support for facilities in their area is very slim. It’s going to need a lot of attention,” said Tso.

The facilities would eventually require recurring revenues to support staff and administration, an issue that will ultimately need to be addressed by the council.

Tso also stressed the importance of teaching accountability and holding family members and relatives responsible for abiding by the law and public health orders.

 

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