Lyon County sheriff works to keep small-town feel in growing communities

Newly elected Lyon County Sheriff and native son Allen Veil has watched the county grow and seen the challenges that come with it.

"There was a time when you knew people either by their face or their name," he said. "Dad knew everyone throughout the county, we all knew one another and watched out for one another; if one kid got in trouble, there was always someone around to step in or let our parents know.

"That of course, is no longer the case."

Veil did not make law enforcement his first career choice, but studied engineering at University of Nevada, Reno with a scholarship from Anaconda Mine in Weed Heights, where his father worked and Veil grew up. When the mine dried up, so did his scholarship. He was later hired as a park aid and then spent two years as a seasonal park ranger at Lahontan State Park.

"I started riding with the rangers who had full (law enforcement) powers and became interested in the profession," Veil said.

Today, he's putting his experience toward developing a department that keeps pace with increased demand.

"During my campaign, I heard more often than anything that we need more deputies on the street," Veil said. "We're limited by the amount of money that comes from the commission and the public doesn't see the other side of operations, such as staffing the county jail or providing security for district court."

Lyon County Commissioner Bob Milz said the funding needed by the department will be provided.

"The only thing (the commissioners) do is fund the department," Milz said. "(Veil) definitely has the people to do the job, and the department is now paying competitive wages which is bringing quality people to the department."

Many of the new hires are retired military. Costs associated with background checks and training are substantial, but Veil has been happy with the results.

"I tell my deputies that everything we do in law enforcement is about public trust," he said. "We take an oath, put on the badge and we have accepted the responsibility that comes with it. Without (trust) there's nothing. We can't have the public wondering about our ethics."

In 2000, the department instituted a citizen complaint policy. Every complaint, Veil said, is taken seriously.

Areas of concern include gang activity in the high school, Veil said, but methamphetamine and substance abuse come first.

"From meth use we see robberies perpetrated to support the habit and crimes against other persons through battery and child abuse and neglect," he said. "(If) criminals believe there will be no consequences for their actions, they'll take the risk. Our new district attorney, (Bob Auer), has promised to prosecute drug offenders to the fullest extent of the law."

The next best step is prevention, Veil said.

"It all works hand-in-hand," he said. "So we're also focusing on education and appealing to our young people's vanity by showing them the progression of what happens with meth use."

Greater presence in schools helps offset gang and drug-related problems, as is garnering more support from parents.

"It's tough because some of these kids have no parents or parents are working," he said. "They're good parents, but they aren't there and don't see the early signs that their child is in trouble."

More school resource officers are needed, Veil said.

A countywide Special Enforcement Unit works with Healthy Communities Coalition to address underage drinking and drugs. There are four narcotics unit officers, with more staffing in the works. Response times have increased and are given one, two or three priority status.

The call volume is also up and finding solutions can be a challenge.

"I don't ever want us to get to that metro mentality where someone calls and we send a postcard as follow-up," Veil said. "I have never until now been involved in politics, and I have things to learn, but I know never to compromise my core values."

More demand also means more overtime which, if not monitored leads to burnout.

"We're pulled in all directions, but it's good that people want us there, and our presence in the community and schools, prevention work, addressing safety issues is important," he said.

Veil noted there's no shortage of duties they need the public's help.

"Watch out for your neighbors," he said. "Parents, watch what your kids are doing, wearing, doodling. If you see something that isn't right, let us know. It's your community and we need your help."

Lyon County residents can call the tip line at (775) 577-5203. Veil can be contacted at (775) 577-5021 or by e-mail at

• Reporter Karel Ancona-Henry is a Dayton resident.


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