RANCHESTER — Ranchester, Wyoming, is a town of 1,100 people where everyone knows your name and greets you with a smile.
But Ranchester is no Mayberry — the folksy fictional small town depicted in ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ Bad things can still happen here, and Stephanie Tillman had that shattering revelation Aug. 15.
“This is a beautiful place I refer to as ‘Mayberry’…but they took our peace,” Tillman told the Ranchester Town Council Aug. 17. “This is supposed to be a place where our kids can be kids and not have to worry about a stranger handing them a pill.”
On Aug. 15 around 8 p.m., Tillman’s 15-year-old daughter Lindsay, who is Autistic, was playing in the town’s park. She was approached by a stranger who asked her questions. When Lindsay mentioned she had a headache, the stranger left and later reappeared with a pill he claimed to be headache medication.
“My child, not seeing the bad in anything because of her Autism, took this pill,’” Tillman said. “About 30 minutes later, my child was in and out of consciousness on my living room floor.”
Lindsay was taken to Sheridan Memorial Hospital and has recovered, according to Tillman, but the experience shook her mother.
“Somebody has said this doesn’t happen here,” Tillman said. “Well, it did, and it happened right outside my front door … Our kids deserve to be safe and deserve to be kids.”
Tillman’s public comment inspired a larger conversation about public safety among town council members. While the town of Ranchester is served by the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, the town does not have its own police force, Ranchester Mayor Peter Clark said.
“A lot of communities in the state that have more successful police departments, they’re usually more isolated,” Clark said. “As a suburb of Sheridan…it’s harder for us to recruit.”
Still, there are things residents can do to ensure their safety, Clark said, and that starts with not taking their safety — or the safety of their children — for granted.
“Anybody who lives anywhere in the United States should be aware that just because you live in a small town, it doesn’t mean you’re safe,” Clark said. “If you don’t lock your car, and you don’t lock your home, you’re asking for trouble.”
Ryan Kerns, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was the investigating officer for the Tillman case, said the town could aid local law enforcement through the installation of security cameras.
“We’re only as effective as the information we collect,” Kerns said. “Something that makes us more effective is when we have eyes in a neighborhood … Nowadays, you can put cameras in a neighborhood … and it’s a very effective investigative tool for us, and it provides security in the area.”
During the council’s Sept. 7 meeting, Councilor Jeff Barron said he discussed the potential installation of cameras with both the sheriff’s office and the Sheridan Police Department, and both thought the installation would be helpful.
“One said there was a case they were working on that could have been solved with much fewer man-hours had a camera been present,” Barron said.
During their Sept. 7 meeting, town councilors listened to two proposals from Brant Schlecht and Spencer Kukuchka regarding the installation of security cameras in the town’s parks and other town-owned properties, such as town hall.
Neither of the proposals included a price-point, and Clark encouraged Schlecht and Kukuchka to return with estimates. He said the town’s budget would play a role in deciding which system to install, but he said the town is dedicated to installing cameras and providing citizens with an extra measure of security.
“Certainly, we’re a town of 1,000 people and we have limited assets, but we need some sort of coverage out there,” Clark said.