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Crime Investigator’s tips

To the Editor:

When thieves become so abundant and arrogant that they kill an innocent victim to hide their crimes, decent citizens of our beautiful valley must be ever more vigilant. Here are a few tips to to make watchfulness more effective.

To lock or not to lock is the question for rural residents and absentee property owners. Some residents who live adjacent National Forest or BLM land follow a tradition of leaving cabins unlocked in case a lost hiker or stranded neighbor needs shelter. Mike Rust, who disappeared March 31 after confronting two burglars at his home near Saguache, followed this custom.

Another incentive to leave property unlocked in remote areas is that thieves can generally take their time and a lock usually leads to destruction of doors or windows. Keys are often left in vehicles. A stranded neighbor might need the vehicle. If a stranded desperado has made it that far into the outback of El Valle, one really does not want them coming to the door to ask for the key to the pickup.

Having been reared with the adage that a lock only stops an honest man, I come down sort of in the middle on the lock or no lock question. I prefer locks no stronger than an honest man on a bad drunk could break with a tire iron or framing hammer. Locks any stronger invite more destruction.

Our valley floor of sandy adobe soil provides an excellent tracking medium. A short length of chain link fence dragged behind your vehicle to the end of your lane leaves a surface which allows you to read whether another vehicle has entered. The piece of fence makes a good “cargo net” when tied over a load in your pickup. The piece of fence is also easily hidden near the end of your lane.

Should you spot suspicious tire tracks or bootprints on your property, place the tape measure near the track and photograph it. If both vehicle tracks are evident, measure “track width”, center to center on the tires. Look for places where the vehicle backed up or turned around. Here, you can photograph all four tire prints. Track width specs can be looked up on the web (ask a grandchild).

If you have forgotten your tape measure, place a coin or dollar bill in the photo to determine scale. (The dollar continues to shrink, but the paper its printed on remains the same size).

A single clear boot print gives a fair indication of height. Multiply the length of the print by a factor of six. A clean walking stride track should be measured to include both boots. Doubling this measurement is another indicator of height. Place your tape from the heel of the rear track to the toe of the front track. This placement is important as the tape indicates line of travel, and the angle of deviation from that centerline, by either foot, will be distinctly individual. Best time to photograph tracks, or anything else outdoors, is early morning or late afternoon. Noonday sun washes out details and obscures highlights.

Cut notches in the front of your own boot heels to distinguish your tracks from others.

Have these “detective” tools handy at all times: A pocket day book or notepad, pen, pencil, tape measure, cell phone with camera, timepiece, magnifying glass and binoculars.

When you observe something that strikes you as not quite right, jot down the time and date and a few details. A subsequent event may explain the importance of the observation, but only if you can remember WHEN. Without such validation, relating reasonable suspicions to authorities can be a frustrating experience for everyone concerned. Our policemen carry no crystal ball; and forget most of what you have seen on CSI. There is no substitute for paying attention to everything around you; and applying common sense.

Though I habitually carry pencil and paper, the modern cell phone is a marvel for combining camera, notebook, clock, panic button backup, internet and several other features I depend on grandchildren to explain (repeatedly).

Listen to rumors of crime, but do not repeat the rumor; write it down, especially WHEN you heard the rumor and from WHOM. Names make the news, but time(s) tell the truth. In the case of rumors regarding the disappearance of Mike Rust, please contact us:

Jerry Mosier, Rust Family Investigator, 719-221-3462;

Saguache County Deputy Mark Werts, 917-655-2525 ;

The Rust Family, P.O. Box 701, Woodland Park, Co., 80866

Jerry Mosier

Alamosa, CO