In April, SWAT officers invaded the Denver suburb of Thornton and engaged in a 9-hour standoff with suspected meth maker, leaving the suspect dead and two officers wounded, says the Denver Post. In recent months, numerous suburban enclaves have been hit with big- city crimes, leaving some stunned residents facing an emerging reality, says the Post: “Urban crime is every suburban town’s neighbor.” Suburban police say they are seeing it all – homicides, sex crimes, postal fraud, drug deals, and on and on. “A lot of people are going to wake up one day and finally realize they don’t live in a small town anymore,” said Bob Cantwell, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Suburban police officers are becoming more sophisticated in how they deal with crime, traffic and growing populations. One has up to eight traffic patrols at night, when it used to get by with one. Another approved a tax hike to pay for a new justice center equipped to hold more dangerous criminals. A third is adding nine deputies and a new sergeant to help prevent crimes after a surge in calls for help – from 86,000 in 2002 to 105,000 last year. “When you used to have one murder a year and now you’re having five,” said criminologist Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. “That requires more training and resources than a lot of small police departments have. And they’re not likely to get those resources until something really awful happens and gets everyone’s attention.” In one suburb with only one jail cell, the person arrested for the most violent crime gets the cell; others wait in the hall. “It is not safe for a police operation in the 21st century,” said one chief.