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A one-of-a-kind town 

Sifting through the post-holiday mailbag, several items jump out to remind us what a truly wacky place it is that we call home.

First off was a Jan. 2 press release we received from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office announcing that the Crime Reduction Unit had busted up what appeared to be an auto theft ring operating out of a private residence. Officers from the unit had tracked down eight stolen vehicles, as well as a "quantity of narcotics." Two suspects, the release said, were in custody and more arrests were expected.

That's terrific for the Crime Reduction Unit. But it raises the obvious question: What does the rest of Sheriff's Office do? Isn't the entire office supposed to be a crime reduction unit?

Another chuckle-inducer from the Sheriff's Office involved the story of a Gleneagle family who returned home from a holiday vacation on Dec. 30 to find four squatters in their house. The homeowner -- remember this is El Paso County -- just happened to be carrying a 20-gauge shotgun when he walked into his house. It apparently came in handy.

"The homeowner made the first two intruders lay on the floor with their hands behind their heads, while he ordered two others, both adults, from the basement and secured them on the floor as well," according to the press release. "Sheriff's deputies arrived to find the homeowner and a neighbor, both armed with shotguns, guarding the intruders as they lay on the floor."

As it turns out, the four trespassers -- including two 17-year-olds and two adults -- had been in the home several times since the owners had gone on vacation on Dec. 22, and had helped themselves to booze and food. No other items were missing from the home.

Charged with second-degree burglary, the juveniles were sent to a detention center and the two adult squatters were hauled off to the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center.

And speaking of jail, six months after a National Institute of Corrections study called for the quantity and quality of the food served behind bars to be improved, the Sheriff's Office announced it has done so. There is a reason that this recommendation was at the top of the list NIC's list: hungry and/or sugar-hyped inmates are more inclined to start fights and riots.

A Gazette story about the jail food improvements indicated they would not cost more money, and unnamed officials were quoted saying the food service provider, Aramark Corp., should have been more carefully monitoring portion sizes all along.

But that didn't convince at least two Gazette letter writers who have subsequently criticized the notion of giving inmates enough to eat. One wondered "How many of our children's schools will have to give up some of their art and sports programs to support these prisoners with this genius idea?" (The answer, of course, is exactly none, as El Paso County does not fund local schools).

If certain Gazette letter writers bring us down to earth about the reality of living in the Pikes Peak region, it's people like Coreen Toll who send others into orbit. This week, Toll, who is the co-owner of the Celebration New Age store on the city's West Side, sent out a widely disseminated e-mail calling for people to "balance the energies of Colorado Springs" by naming the recently acquired Red Rock Open Space the Garden of the Goddesses.

The property, south of the existing Garden of the Gods city park and a geographic extension of the famous rock formations, has long been called Red Rock Canyon. But, Toll believes that the city should honor the male and female.

"Although divided by a road (symbolically like most male/female relationships) the male and female should stand with pride and equality," Toll wrote of the idea for "Garden of the Goddesses."

"Our city could use such positive PR."

Some, including City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, had a different reaction, beginning with the words "good grief."

When he learned of the request, Heimlicher said, he immediately thought about the old Spirit of Detroit statue, a big bare-chested green-colored bronze sculpture of an Adonis-like figure that stood in front of the administration building in his former hometown. Two blocks away, in front of the gas building there, was a statue of a mermaid in a fountain. Several years ago in the middle of the night, some jokester spraypainted big green footsteps leading from Adonis to the mermaid, suggesting a midnight tryst had occurred.

"The first thing I thought of with this Garden of the Gods on one side, Garden of the Goddesses on the other thing, is that someone is going to spraypaint footsteps across the road," Heimlicher said.

Which might not be a bad thing.

-- degette@csindy.com

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