Backstory: Police’s hidden museum of Casper crime and prevention (Photos)

Vicky Macy stands in one of the Casper Police Department hallways in the Hall of Justice building near downtown Casper. Macy, who’s worked for the department since 1990, has collected an impressive amount of police history. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Casper’s Hall of Justice missed out on some interesting times.

The building that houses the Casper Police Department and Natrona County Sheriff’s Office was completed in 1977. Its flourecent-lit walls and hallways are all business, made of cinderblock and concrete and painted blazing white.

By the mid-70s Casper had grown up. The justice building was constructed in an area known as the Sandbar, infamous for bootlegging and prostitution during the century’s first half. Fire Station No. 1 and City Hall were completed nearby around the same era. Perhaps there was some community glee in constructing the very symbols of law and order in a once-notoriously unlawful area.

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While the building was constructed after Casper’s rougher years, the intriguing evidence survives on those plain white walls.

The reason is administrator Vicky Macy, who was tasked with unceremoniously disposing of old police records and equipment after she was hired in 1990.

“Most of them were purged,” said Macy. “I saved these because of the historical value.”

Old arrest cards showing activity around the infamous Sandbar district are framed and hung in the Casper Police Department halls. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The typed arrest cards provide the most vivid information. They were used to file arrest records before computerized systems came online in the early 2000s. Most were written by the officers themselves.

“Sometimes they’re hilarious,” said Macy, “and they were not ‘politically correct.'”

This arrest record shows a female juvenile runaway who was arrested for being “out late hours and fornication” in 1955. She was sent to a reform school in Sheridan. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Macy’s interest in preserving police history happened by chance.

Macy’s married to a now-retired officer, so when she attended police activities she’d enjoy the stories many of the veteran cops would tell. “Sometimes I’d laugh until my sides hurt,” she says.

As officers retired, they start giving Macy mementoes from their career on the force. That would range from newspaper articles to pieces of obsolete equipment.

“I started hanging them up here in the hallways, because when I started there was nothing here,” said Macy.

Many of the arrest cards have to do with the very activity that took place in something called the Van Rooms, mere steps away from the police building’s current location.

An arrest card for Fifi Belondon hangs in the Casper Police Department hallway. Belondon was a well-known “madam” in an establishment known as the Van Rooms. In the mid-1960s the city was becoming more aggressive against prostitution, and eventually closed the Van Rooms. Belodon was still able to remain active through the middle-70s after the Van Rooms were closed and demolished. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Arrest cards show a long list of cat-and-mouse activity between police and proprietors of the Van Rooms, which was a well-known hub of illegal alcohol and prostitution.

The name FiFi Belondon is seen often. She was the “madam” of the Van Rooms and arrested multiple times for prostitution and bootlegging. She’d also show up regularly to bail out her employees.

Names of people arrested at the Van Rooms who were bailed out by Fifi Belondon in the 1960s. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The cards show most transactions in the 1960s cost $100 each time. That comes out to about $875 adjusted for inflation.

Newspaper articles indicate the Van Rooms were raided often between 1955 and 1968, when they were finally shut down. FiFi Belondon took her operations to a building on North Park, where she continued to be a regular in the police records for several more years.

A large, red light inside a cabinet gives a glimpse of police life on the beat.

According to Macy, the light was placed atop the old Hotel Gladstone on Center Street. Before the days of portable radios, beat cops walking downtown would know to call police headquarters when the light switched on. Naturally she says it was nicknamed the “bat light.”

A case contains old equipment used by police and staff over the decades. The red light was nicknamed the “bat light,” according to Macy. It was on top of the old Hotel Gladstone on Center and in the days before portable radios would signal beat cops to call headquarters from call boxes placed around downtown. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Macy is still curating the halls with ongoing history, including newspaper clips of the eclipse event.

Eventually she’d like to see much of the history properly preserved for future generations.

“I would really like to get some of this stuff (digitally )archived,” said Macy.

Arrest records were typed and filed on cards until computerized systems were installed in the early-2000s. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Some of the equipment includes recording devices, lie detectors and other evidence-gathering devices used in decades past for police work. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)