Q&A Tuesday: Teams hitting the streets on specialized missions
Teams of deputies specializing in graffiti, gang, drug and alcohol enforcement have been hitting the streets of Carson City almost nightly for the past several weeks. Sheriff Kenny Furlong said he sees this type of law enforcement as critical to combating graffiti-, gang- and drug-related crime. He took some time last week to explain the department’s specialized teams.
What types of specialized law enforcement teams are used in Carson City?
There are a number of special enforcement teams and designated assignments working in Carson. These include the Special Enforcement Team (SET), Gang Unit, Alcohol Compliance Unit, and Bicycle Patrol. Functionally, some other assignments, such as our patrols along the Carson City beach line at Lake Tahoe may be seen during the summer months.
The special teams are recognizable throughout the community wearing a green shirt and khaki pants and displaying the identifying emblems and markings of a law-enforcement person.
What do these units do for our community
The Special Enforcement Team is one of our most responsive units. It reacts to all tips received on the METH Hotline, targets areas of the community where increased crime has been reported, and provides proactive enforcement in areas where intelligence information would suggest. The Gang Unit is comprised of deputies with specific interest and information on gang activity in town. Their responsibilities include gathering intelligence information regarding gangs, applying gang activity suppression and responding to reported gang violence. Our Alcohol Compliance Unit works closely with “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall.” These deputies ensure that those businesses with liquor licenses prohibit juveniles from obtaining alcohol. The Bicycle Unit provides flexible enforcement in the downtown areas and a unique ability to get into darkened areas of town at night without being noticed.
How are these teams used?
Each and every deputy assigned to our Operations Unit, first and foremost, responds to calls for service within the community. The patrol division staffing does not allow for full-time commitments to our specialized enforcement details. Therefore, as needs are identified, the operations managers and supervisors are tasked with flexing shifts and altering schedules to provide staffing for calls, as well as the operation being executed. If for example, the Gang Unit is working a series of shifts, those deputies that would otherwise have been in a patrol zone are relieved from that assignment and other staff is called in to back fill the positions. Most of our operations consume a lot of overtime, which equates to deputies spending less time with their families.
Who comprises the enforcement teams?
The unit composition can be as little as two deputies working under the control of the shift sergeant or as large as eight to 10 deputies with a sergeant assigned to the unit. The unit is equipped with the necessary equipment for the specific task, sometimes with light loads for bicycle operations, and at times heavier and more bulky equipment in response to a broader range of likely enforcement scenarios. We have incorporated our K-9 team for narcotics emphasis, unmarked vehicles for lower levels of visibility and special purpose vehicles for specific rugged terrain or dynamic entry operations. Our limited communications capabilities place a heavy burden on the dispatch/communications center, as they will take on the fullness of the operations with the same equipment used on a daily basis.
Are there any plans to create long-term or permanent teams?
Ultimately, the Sheriff’s Department would like to assign full-time team members to all of our specialized enforcement details. However, the enormous expense of staffing and positioning these resources is not always available. The cost of placing one team of two deputies is approximately $180,000. It is easy to visualize the cost of outfitting an entire eight-man or two, four-man teams to work solely on one specific program. While we are certainly working in that direction, it is equally the department’s responsibility to work well within the city’s limited revenue capabilities.
How can community members help?
Law Enforcement has long recognized that support and participation by the community can significantly impact crime. During this past year, the Sheriff’s Department has opened a METH Hotline at 887-2020 ext. METH (6384) in which people can make anonymous tips about drug use. The department also has put into place a Traffic Hotline at 887-2020 ext. 5000. Our Communications Center stands ready to dispatch units to trouble zones or redirect information to the responsible team leaders. The Communications Center is reached at 887-2007 or 2008. Secret Witness and the Detective Division also stand ready to receive information and tips to crimes that have already occurred or have been reported. Detectives can be reached at 887-2020 ext. 1400. Secret Witness can be reached at 322-4900.
It is reasonable to assume that most of our community members are more familiar with their own neighborhoods more so than a passing patrol unit. The department encourages Neighborhood Watch and has a program established to assist in getting started. For information, call 887-2020 ext. 1717 and leave a message for Deputy Ray Guzman.
When someone sees something that “just doesn’t look right,” it is a tremendous advantage for the Sheriff’s Department to get a call and receive the information.
When limited resources prevent law enforcement to be everywhere all the time, it helps to have the eyes and ears of the community telling us where we should concentrate the resources that are available. Our response times will vary, based on priority, but the information gained from the public remains the most valued resource we have.