St. George Police Chief discusses crime, collisions, drugs, gangs, prostitution

St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton speaks to community at St. George Chamber of Commerce luncheon, St. George, Utah, Dec. 17, 2014 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton spoke to members of the community about crime statistics, collisions, drugs and other issues of concern in the area Wednesday at a luncheon hosted by the St. George Chamber of Commerce.

“I want to do everything that I can possibly do to make sure that St. George continues to be an outstanding place to live,” said Stratton, who has worked for the Police Department for over 30 years and has been serving as the Chief of Police for 14 years.

The St. George Police Department is one of the largest in the state, Stratton said, with 104 police officers, about 45 civilian employees and 35 volunteers.

The department plays a big role in the community. It is the lead agency for the Washington County Drug Task Force, and dispatch services for all of Washington County are provided by the St. George Police Department, as well.

“We dispatch for all police, fire and medical in the entire county and, as you can imagine,” Stratton said, “that’s a tremendous responsibility.”

Stratton said the Police Department’s philosophy is to take care of the little problems before they become bigger problems.

What goes up must come down

Although, some crime statistic rates are dependent upon whether or not the department is aggressively and proactively enforcing laws and whether people are being caught for crimes they’ve committed, St. George crime rates have fallen.

The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in St. George is 1 in 489, according to national statistics, making St. George 38 percent safer than other cities in the U.S.

Among the crime rates that have seen a decrease within the last five years are: homicide, forgery, burglary, aggravated assault, shoplifting, theft, drugs and DUI, Stratton said. Vehicle burglaries have also gone down.

“I’ve got to tell you,” Stratton said, “vehicle burglaries are interesting because unfortunately, and it causes us a lot of frustration, often, people will go into the store, they leave their car unlocked, they leave their purse on the front seat and computer on the backseat and then, when they come back out and it’s gone, they’re amazed.”

The department strongly encourages everyone to take ordinary precautions, he said, such as locking doors and placing items out of sight to protect their property.

Stratton said fraud rates have stayed about the same over the past five years, along with criminal mischief, or vandalism, which has also stayed about the same.

Armed robbery, however, has gone up, which Stratton said is concerning, especially for business owners.

Prostitution is another crime on the rise, Stratton said, and added:

I saw a couple of you chuckle but prostitution is something that’s a real issue here. Some people have said ‘Chief, why do you care, why do you worry about it?’ Well, we had one individual that he took his 5-month-old baby in a carrier to meet a prostitute. We’ve had people that have tried to pay for services with methamphetamine, and heroin and cocaine. And we’ve seen in Salt Lake where there have been some situations that, in fact, across the country, where sometimes young women are found by the maid that have been murdered in the hotel rooms. And so, whether you agree or not, that’s an issue and a concern that we take very seriously that we need to pay attention to.

There are also people who may not think there are gangs in this area, Stratton said, and if that’s their perception, it is a good thing.

“I tell them ‘thank you, we take that as a compliment’ because if you don’t see it, you don’t deal with it then we’re doing our job,” he said. “We really try to be proactive with gangs. Outlaw motorcycle gangs, we’re starting to see several of those move into our community and so that’s an issue that we need to be aware of it.”

Attitude on the asphalt

Stratton said the department has their work cut out for them in trying to reduce crashes on the city streets.

“I often have people contact me and say ‘you know, Chief, I don’t know what’s going on but I think St. George has got the craziest drivers of anywhere in the country’ and I think some of you might agree,” he said. “It’s almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of a thing. You know, they are the most incredible people in this community but boy, you get them behind the wheel of a car and watch out.”

“Notice, I don’t call them accidents,” he said. “They’re not really accidents, they’re crashes. They’re caused.

Stratton said it’s doing the simple things in the community that makes the biggest difference.

“When you’re driving down Bluff Street and you see someone in the lane to the right of you and they’re signaling to turn left, what kind of a driver are you?” he asked. “Do you speed up because you can’t let them in or do you back off and let them in and wave? You know, those kinds of things. It’s those little things that make such a difference.”

He also added people would be amazed at how many road rage cases that occur in the area.

“People will do something on the road, they’ll cut somebody off and they’ll turn and,” he said, “they actually chase them down, drag them out the window and physically assault them.”

Distracted driving is also a very big concern in the area. Stratton said he has seen the heartache caused by people distracted by their phone which resulted in a collision, and he said he encourages people: please do not use the phone while driving.

“Think in your mind who you love the most in the whole world,” he said. “Think who that is. Imagine what it would be like if Deputy Chief Farnsworth and I came knocking on your door today to tell you they’d been killed because somebody was using their phone.”

(story continues below)

(Videocast by Kimberly Scott, St. George News)

The high dragging down the city

Though statistics show drugs have decreased in the area, Stratton said that’s not necessarily a good indication because there is a significant amount of drugs in the area and, he said, drug addiction fuels crime.

“Frankly, we find that drugs are somehow related to most crimes,” he said.

Among the drugs causing the biggest challenges and concerns in the area, Stratton said, are heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and prescription drugs.

“I’ve got to tell you,” Stratton said, “there’s probably not a person in this room, myself included, that hasn’t had family members or friends somehow impacted by drugs. It’s a real challenge for us.”

He went on to say that sometimes people have a tendency to believe that addicts are “bad guys” and, he said, that’s not the case. A lot of good families are impacted by drugs, he said.

Stratton said the department sees a tremendous abuse of prescription pills.

“In many cases,” he said, “people start out, might have had an injury or something and they use prescription drugs and then, when we can’t get the prescription drugs any longer then a lot of people transition over to heroin because it’s cheaper and it’s much easier to get.”

He said what is really concerning is that there are multiple drug overdoses in St. George every week.

“This is really having a big impact on people’s lives,” he said. “Sadly, we see some young people between 15 and 25-30 that actually die from the drug overdoses.”

Stratton said the drugs in the area is a community problem.

“It’s not just something that one individual or one group needs to deal with,” he said. “We all need to deal with it and we all need to do what we can do to stop that.”

Currently, the department is working closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Stratton said they met with DEA supervisors out of Salt Lake on Tuesday to partner with them in going after the people that are bringing drugs into the community.

Stratton said:

I really believe that our quality of life is incumbent upon every single one of us in everything that we do every single day. Again, it’s those little things. How do we treat each other? Do we help each other? Those kinds of things. That is the key to the quality of life that we love and enjoy.

The one thing that I’ve learned, there are a lot of people out there that are really struggling. There are a lot of people out there that are really hurting. There are a lot of people out there that need the hand of friendship. They need someone to reach out to them and to help them. And I would encourage us again, in everything that we do every single day, do those little things to go out of our way to be nice – to go out of our way to help other people because it makes an incredible difference in their lives.


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  • sagemoon December 18, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the update, Chief. For the most part, I think SGPD does a great job of serving the community.

  • ICALLRaiseYa December 18, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Timely article. Support your community.

  • Fred December 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Very good Police here in Saint George. Very polite.

  • Joe Smith December 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    OK police, that’s all well and good, but the question is what are YOU going to do about all this idiot, reckless, hazard causing drivers? I wanna see traffic patrols stepped up!

  • Big Guy December 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Policing is one of those things that if done perfectly, will hardly be noticed and seldom thanked. Sadly, some are quick to call attention to the occasional police misstep, leaving others with a negative opinion. I think the SGPD does a great job. Thanks to all our officers.

  • Camel ... December 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Now if we could just let people dance without the gun toting party busters showing up
    Ed. ellipsis

  • Questioning citizen December 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I wish someone would ask our police chief if he believes the Washington County Children’s Justice Center should return the 6,000 dollars one of the “Outlaw motorcycle gangs” (as classified by his department) has raised for them in the last 2 years should be returned. He does sit on the advisory board.

  • Koolaid December 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    What about illegal dance parties? How is the crackdown going on those illegal dance parties? Any surveillance on those illegal dance parties? C’mon St George police, tell us how you are protecting us from those illegal dance parties? Illegal dance parties! Oh My…. HECK!!!!!

    • Maggie December 19, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Koolaid … oh my heck ,nobody is going to ask you to the dance anyhow . Dancing is a happy thing and you just work to hard at being negative.

  • badb**** December 18, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I just have to say cops should not say s*** about texting an driving because they do it everyday and talk on the phone an on their d*** computers .. All because they have a badge they have every right to do what the hell they want .. They say this is a free country but yet we r never free..cops say they going to help the people but yet they r making matters worse ask ur self’s this can u even trust the police I mean really trust them they r dirty a** cops every single one of them there to worried about worrents for stupid traffic tickets then ppl rapping kids or killing ppl or getting the ppl using an sailing drugs to kids… They don’t care as long as they can get away with anything they want an go home with a paycheck….
    *Ed. ellipses

  • tight magic undies December 18, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    We need a specific swat team just for raiding any kind of illegal dancing. Why would we allow such nonesense? It just leads to fornication.

    • fed up December 19, 2014 at 8:47 am

      Does anyone else get sick of all the comments you idiots make about the stupid dancing issue – it was 2 months ago – MOVE ON!!

      • sagemoon December 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

        I’m not going to get sick of the cracks made about dancing in St. George until I see some change in city policy regarding dancing.

        • Koolaid December 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm

          Somebody thinks the comments for two months are old? Wah! Wah! Wah!. That stupid anti-dance ordinance is 20 years old and people are sick of it! Two months ago, your city council and mayor said they were going to change it. Two months later, they’ve done nothing. How long will it take them? Another 20 years? It is very stupid the city has such a nanny law in place and has to waste taxpayer money by sending multiple police units out to enforce the no-dance restrictions.

          • fed up December 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

            so making comments on a news site are going to change things or make them change the city ordinance? do you think they take the time to look at these comments on this website? lol thats funny

  • Igor December 18, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Why my daughter does not receive from police of the help and protection against beatings

    • Idget December 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Why you no stop beating her yourself? You got to have PoPo man come to you and teach you not to beat on little kids?

  • Not buying it December 19, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Sorry chief after listening to you commit purgers under oath I’m not buying it.

  • KOOLAID, December 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

    After a night sleep I now understand how ignorant and stupid we all must appear to the norm of society after making such stupid comments. We are all trolls living in troll land smelling like a troll and looking as trolls. Let’s do be mushroom head

  • Jo snow December 19, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Someone needs to check into the so called stabbing at the one and only! From what I understand is that the incident happened in August and when a private investigator checked the hospital for any stabbing victims on that particular day, they had none. Sounds fishy. I am always hearing how currupt the SGPD. Hey peeps just cause the spectrum prints it, it doesn’t make it so.

    • Koolaid December 19, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      The Spectrum said some things about the lawsuits against the city and former mayor (who just so happens will be whisked away on a mission to Mexico before going to court) that the lawyer pursuing the lawsuit says aren’t true. That paper is a terrible news source. It should stick with church stuff and high school sports, that ‘safe’ news.

      • Joe Smith December 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

        Well since no one else had said it today here the ol’ obligatory “If you don’t like the way things are done around here then leave!”

        • Defender December 19, 2014 at 7:28 pm

          Li’l Joey, I’ll buy your ticket.

  • KOOLAID, December 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Where I’m from the population is made up of 17 percent of one color but that same color has 45 percent of the prison population. Another color has 18 percent population and they own 36 percent prison population. I m a little of both colors with family in the prison population, the rest of my family leave under a bridge dancing, by the way my dads the mayor and he hates women.

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