SALEM, UT (News4Utah) Three thousand.That’s how many stolen identities have been uncovered as part of an investigation started by Sgt. Greg Smith. He cracked a fraud case that now involves federal agents.And he did that from the small Utah town of Salem. In this weeks Behind the Badge report – we head to Salem to get the story behind the officer and his department.
Sgt. Greg Smith helps out with a minor fender bender. And he actually knows one of the drivers involved. He says that’s often the case here in Salem – and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I knew I wanted to work for a smaller agency because I like that feel – getting to know your neighbors, getting to know the people in the community because it becomes personal at that point.”
Salem has a population of just eight-thousand. And Sgt. Smith is one of just 10 full-time officers. And that includes Chief Brad James.”I don’t sit behind a desk 40 hours a week.” Chief James has been in charge of the Salem Police Department since 1990.
They had three full-time officers then, but even with three times that today – he says everyone does everything. “Regardless of what were are dealt, we deal with it. We can’t call out a specialized unit. We don’t have a robbery detail or a burglary detail or homicide group. We have to deal with it. So, we get to experience a lot of things officer in large departments don’t get to experience.”
That’s part of the reason Smith came to Salem.”Knowing the Chief and knowing the high moral and the way the department was run here I just couldn’t resist coming over here. ” After working for the UVU and Payson police – Smith moved to the small Utah County town in 2013. “I enjoy arresting the bad guy and taking him to jail. What I love the most is that positive interaction. Working with the kids. Getting out of my vehicle. Talking to folks and addressing their concerns, cause that goes a long way with people.”
The other draw – being Salem’s K9 handler. K9 officer MJ is Smith’s partner. You can often find them playing fetch and endless battles of tug-of-war. But when it comes to working – Smith says MJ is serious about sniffing out drugs and she’s trained to attack.
Smith says while being an officer in a small town may not include the violence and murders of bigger cities – there’s still crime. “We have the theft, burglaries, assaults, runaways. You name it we have it.” And that includes fraud. In fact, a few months ago, Smith answered a call that would lead him to discover a major fraud crime ring with thousands and thousands of victims. “We got called to a local grocery store where this lady passed a counterfeit check – one that was made by her.” That lady is Shannon Drake. And Sgt Smith says she was literally just the tip of the criminal iceberg. “Got a search warrant. And found thousands of documents. Bank records. Bank statements. Credit cards. Blank credit cards. Military I-D.” Drake was convicted on state charges. Now federal authorities are investigating the case that Smith started. And because of that case and his overall good work – Smith was named Utah Officer of the Year by the police chiefs association. “It was quite humbling and quite an honor, actually.”
But don’t expect him to take that title and run off to a bigger city – because being a small town cop is the job of his dreams. “This is where I want to be. This is where I want to retire at. I love it here.”
Sgt. Smith originally was headed toward a career as a firefighter but decided to serve as an officer instead. His twin brother is also in law enforcement – he is a Corporal with the Lehi Police Department.
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