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SALT LAKE CITY -- After a controversial tactic to catch Utahns bringing illegal fireworks across the Utah-Wyoming border, the agency behind the sting is backing off.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers will no longer sit in parking lots in Evanston, Wyo., looking for people buying alcohol and fireworks to bring back to Utah.
The change in tactic comes after Wyoming business and community leaders voiced their concerns about the operation. They say they felt like they were being spied on by Utah law enforcement during the Fourth of July sting.
We decided it didn't have as much value as putting the officers on the Utah side of the border where they have full police jurisdiction.
–Keith Squires, UDPS
They also felt the operation hurt their bottom line.
"Any business, and you've got a law enforcement agency looking at your business, it's going to intimidate the business owner a little bit and some of the customers," says Evanston Mayor Will Davis.
But that's not the main reason the Utah Department of Public Safety decided to stop sending troopers across the border. According to the Keith Squires, the department's deputy commissioner, the operation did not produce results worthy of its scale.
"We decided it didn't have as much value as putting the officers on the Utah side of the border where they have full police jurisdiction," Squires says.
Squires says a total of 14 traffic stops were made in Utah as a result of observations from the Wyoming border. He also says there is a much higher risk of potential problems for Utah troopers being in Wyoming with limited jurisdiction.
"Although it was lawful for us to be where we were at, we don't want to create any issues for any other jurisdiction or community," Squires says. "We feel putting our resources back here on this side of the border and emphasizing the traffic safety component during those weekends along with the other special enforcement that we do will be more valuable for us."
We need to work together on a lot of other issues besides these, and we didn't want to sour that relationship between law enforcement agencies.
–Evanston Mayor Will Davis
The Independence Day operation was conducted by undercover agents from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The agents sat outside liquor and firework stores in Evanston, watching for customers headed for Utah. They would then call license plate numbers in to troopers over the border.
It was that operation, along with similar ones conducted in the past, that had Wyoming residents saying Utah officers were going too far.
Squires says that DPS officials met with Evanston's police chief and mayor to discuss the issue, but he decided to stop the border operation before that meeting ever took place.
During the meeting, the men also agreed to communicate more with each other.
"We need to work together on a lot of other issues besides these, and we didn't want to sour that relationship between law enforcement agencies," Davis says.
UHP wants to remind people that purchasing Wyoming fireworks and bringing them back is illegal.
The agency says troopers will still be patrolling this weekend, just not on the Evanston side of the border.