Slaton residents respond to spike in crime

Reported by: Brittany Price
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Updated: 4/13/2012 3:32 am

It was the routine coffee talk at Slaton's hardware shop.

"It's a big beauty shop back here, really, with a bunch of men sitting back here in it," Charley Henzler, a Slaton native said.

Henzler was born and raised in Slaton. He said lately his coffee-drinking group has had more to chat about over their afternoon brew.

"I heard they made a drug bust, a pretty good one. That's something that hasn't happened here in a long time," Henzler said.

47-year-old Margie Whitlatch and 53-year-old Terry Harris were arrested on Wednesday and were charged with first degree felonies for possessing meth and marijuana.

"These folks, they're crazy," Henzler said.  

Violent crime has flared up in the small community in recent months.

In January, an attempted burglary backfired on the intruder when homeowner Fred Melcher shot and killed 49-year-old Robert Holt.

In February, 21-year-old Sampson Oguntope was arrested for the murder of 89-year-old Faye Gray. He's indicted twice on capitol murder charges.

However, Slaton natives like Henzler said despite the spike in crime they still feel safe.

"You walk down the street and everybody hollers and says 'how are you?' because they know you by name," Henzler said. 

"We've got good people here. People that were born and raised here and abide by the laws. So there is no reason not to feel safe," Joann Munoz, another Slaton resident said.

Locals that talked to Fox 34 said they're confident in the Police Department's ability to protect.

"I know the Chief personally and I think they're as good as they've ever had," Henzler said.  

"We've had some new officers lately and they've all shown they can do their job to a pretty good extent," Munoz said.  

That trust is justified according to Slaton's Police Chief, Steven Wheeler. He said enforcement is stepping up from a reactive approach to proactive one.

"We're trying to step up the visibility out there," Wheeler said. "We are investigating several other dealers that are involved in drug activity here. We're going to continue to get the drug dealers off the street."

Wheeler said he believes the shootings earlier this year are not a trend.

"The shootings were very tragic but I do believe those acts were random," Wheeler said.

The shocking occurrences are not getting Henzler paranoid.

"I've been here 65 years," Henzler said.

He said he feels as safe as he ever has.

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