Park rangers battling crime in Hot Springs | News
HOT SPRINGS (KTHV) - Park rangers are battling serious crimes on patrol.
Just this week, Hot Springs National Park announced a guilty verdict in federal court for a man found trafficking "meth" and having items on him to make it.
When you think of Hot Springs National Park, a drug conviction probably doesn't come to mind. But felony crimes are happening there and the park rangers are front and center to it all.
We're on the job with Park Ranger Operations Supervisor Jeff Johnson. He's on patrol at Hot Springs National Park known for that spring water and plenty of beauty. But Johnson says on his beat, it's not all so pretty.
"What do we got here?" Johnson says to a fellow ranger in the field.
"Can you tell me what I've done wrong?" a suspect asks.
"You have a failure to appear warrant out of Hot Springs Police Department," a ranger said.
It's a background check turning up that warrant after a traffic stop in the park Wednesday. It revealed the driver with a suspended license, a passenger with a hot checks warrant and in the car, "two marijuana smoking pipes, a pack of synthetic marijuana, so we'll issue citations on those charges and impound the vehicle and the subjects will be taken to jail where they will be processed for their warrants," Johnson said.
Johnson says, given the nature of his park near a city, it draws criminals looking for a hideout.
"I think most people would be surprised at the amount of illicit activity, the drugs, the alcohol, the illicit sexual activity that occurs on a daily basis here in the park," Johnson said.
It's a dose of reality in perhaps an unlikely place with rangers ready to crack down.
"We certainly will take care of business if we encounter anybody doing anything they should not be doing in the park," Johnson said.
The park is also conducting saturation patrols and checkpoints as part of its crack down and also announcing convictions.
The recent conviction was for 33-year-old William Petty of Hot Springs. A park statement says that Petty was sentenced July 5th in the United States District Court to 41 months in federal prison, three years of active federal probation and he must pay court costs for trafficking drugs in the national park.
The park reports that a ranger arrested Petty in December of 2011 after finding him trafficking meth in the park and having dozens of plastic baggies, digital scales and other items tied to the manufacture of meth.
Johnson says it's really not visitors committing these crimes in the park; he says it's mainly people living in the Hot Springs area.