With a court hearing scheduled next month for a 15-year-old Basalt boy who allegedly plotted to murder another teen, the town’s police chief is planning a community forum about gang activity.
Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor said Wednesday that the idea sprouted from suggestions from Town Council members concerned about the boy, who allegedly was in a gang, and graffiti that has appeared around Basalt.
The July 6 hearing for the teen will involve whether he should be charged as an adult, said an administrative assistant in the Eagle County district attorney’s office. He faces felony charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit trespassing.
The boy was arrested in April after parents told police that they found a map the teen had drawn and thought it referenced a drug deal. Instead, it was a diagram of the planned ambush at Arbaney Park, police have said.
The 15-year-old, a Basalt High sophomore who quarreled with the potential victim over drug dealing and a girl, and others planned to lure the potential victim to the park and beat him with baseball bats, a Basalt police press release said.
According to the boy’s alleged confession, they intended to then tie him up with duct tape, drive up to Ruedi Reservoir and “take him out into the woods and let him starve to death,” the press release said. “The juvenile suspect admitted he wanted the victim to suffer [and] admitted to planning this for the last four weeks.”
But this plot, in which a 17-year-old also faces felony charges, wasn’t the only factor that drove O’Connor to plan the June 28 forum, he said.
Graffiti has been sprayed on dumpsters, bridges and at the town’s skate park, O’Connor said.
Perhaps the most visible tagging was on the historic Emma Store buildings on Highway 82 outside Basalt in January. Because of the sensitive brick structure, Pitkin County crews took care to use gentle cleaning methods to remove the paint. The county also is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the vandals who tagged the 19th-century structures.
“There’s graffiti showing up all over town, and then the situation with the two young kids,” said O’Connor when asked about the forum. “Some say we don’t have a problem, but it’s kind of like a fire starting with little embers that are starting to glow. We don’t want anything to catch on fire.”
Garfield County deputies with expertise in gang activity will lead the forum.
Deputy Jim Miller said the presentation will cover how state statutes define a gang and members, and why kids join them. Influences from social media like Facebook and YouTube, rap music, and movies also will be discussed.
From attending other police conferences, Miller said he’s learned gang trends include them moving from inner cities into suburbs and rural areas.
“It’s definitely increasing nationwide,” he said.
O’Connor said he hopes community leaders attend along with other residents. Graffiti can range from a person’s initials to “this is our territory,” he said.
“We’re not trying to get anyone freaked out,” O’Connor said. “But the scribbles may mean something.”
The presentation, which will include a question-and-answer session afterward, will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Basalt library.