Can’t be people-oriented in a patrol car |

Can’t be people-oriented in a patrol car

J.K. Perry
Preston Utley/Vail DailyMinturn Police Chief Lorenzo Martinez talks with Antique Accents owner Rabecca Callender, handing out stickers asking motorists to slow down.

MINTURN – Chief Lorenzo Martinez has dealt with lazy criminals and gun-toting boxers in his years as a Minturn police officer, but he attributes the town’s overall good-naturedness to the people.Martinez was recently honored by the town for his 20 years of service on the police force. The Pueblo native has served as chief since 1998.Community is an important word for Martinez, he said. He and his officers talk daily with residents and business owners. When there was talk of nixing the department in the late 90s, Martinez implemented 90-minute town walks into each officers’ shift. The goal was to show a strong community presence, he said. “You have to be people oriented and you can’t do that in the patrol car,” he said.As the whole is greater than its parts, Martinez gives kudos to the town when talk of being honored comes up. “I would rather honor the town,” he said. “We’ve just got an awesome town.”

Minturn has its set of problems: car break-ins, traffic and domestic violence. Some can be blamed on the traffic arteries of Highway 24 and Interstate 70 funneling a criminal element into Minturn, he said. And Minturnites often keep their car doors unlocked with valuables in sight, habits townspeople must break, he said.”I’d hate to lose that innocence but we need to realize there’s a lot of people coming by taking advantage,” Martinez said.Charging into MinturnFrequent moves in the Army left Martinez hungering for a place to settle down. A fellow captain and Army buddies lead Martinez to the Rocky Mountains on road trips from Fort Sill in Oklahoma to Breckenridge for skiing.With no police experience, Martinez applied in 1985 to become an officer with Minturn. He was hired, and months later, two officers were absent due to health issues. That left inexperienced Martinez and Chief Mike Gallagher. Then Gallagher went down.

Martinez got a domestic abuse call involving a reputed boxer wielding a shotgun. Alone, he went and found the man, taking the shotgun away from him.”I probably violated every rule of officer safety,” he said.Months later he attended the police academy. There, he learned that charging into a situation is not the best tactic, he said. Lazy criminals stealing hair tonicIn 1997, Martinez found himself responding to a robbery with a strange twist. Late at night, the owner of a barber shop spotted two men breaking into the store and called the police.Martinez, with backup, approached the building and noticed two men, one laying on the floor the other across some chairs. Pillowcases near the front door were loaded with tonic, combs, magazines and cash.

“You never imagine a criminal is going to take a nap,” Martinez said. “How would you like to be their parents? Not only did they raise criminals, but they’re lazy too.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or Vail, Colorado

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