Squad squelching Ogden crime

Special unit is targeting offenses in a 1-mile area

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

Officers Heather Harris and Brett Connors arrest a woman accused of intoxication and hitting Connors with a can of beer. Incident occurred after a nearby drug arrest.

Tim Hussin, Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — Nearly a quarter of the city's crimes happen on these streets.

From 20th to 30th streets and from Harrison to Washington boulevards, it all goes down right here.

"Looking back over a period of about five years, we found that nearly a quarter of the offenses we deal with occur in that one-mile area," Ogden Police Lt. Mike Ashment said. "The city's about 22 miles."

Faced with complaints and concerns about high crime, the Ogden Police Department has created a special "Crime Reduction Squad" — a six-member unit with the mission of eradicating violent and property crimes in this neighborhood.

So far, they are finding some success.

"Be safe," Sgt. Shawn Hamblin tells his officers as they start the night. "Look out for each other."

The squad allowed a Deseret Morning News reporter and a photographer to accompany it on a Saturday night shift, working from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

"It's a dream job," says officer Justin Kaufman. "We're out here to stop crime before it starts."

As he drives down Adams Avenue, Kaufman's police radio crackles with calls. He listens with half an ear. The squad does not respond to 911 calls but is supposed to instead be proactive. The officers cruise this square-mile area of Ogden, looking for any potential problem.

The squad focuses on parolees and habitual criminals, juveniles and gangs, street drug activity and preventing violent and property crimes. The officers take a "zero tolerance" approach to most crimes.

"Our squad, there's a purpose for what we do," officer Bob Evans says.

A Chrysler Sebring doesn't have a front license plate, and that is enough for officer Brett Connors to pull it over. The woman driving it tries to avoid him, darting into a driveway near 25th Street and Jefferson Avenue.

"Britney, you've been driving on a suspended license so many times," Connors says as he slaps a pair of handcuffs on her.

Inside the car, other officers are attempting to question a man sporting gang tattoos, including one on the back of his head. He is fidgeting in his seat.

"Carlos, you got a gun on you?" officer Ken Hammond asks. "Look at me! Look at me!"

Carlos says nothing, watching Kaufman search the front seat of the car.

"Gun! Gun!" Kaufman shouts, pulling a pair of baggy jeans out of the car with a gun sticking out of the waistband. Carlos is yanked back to another patrol car.

Neighborhood help

As he finishes with the arrest, Connors walks over and talks to a couple of women watching from the sidewalk. Soon, he starts asking them about drug houses and other neighborhood problems.

Besides patrolling the streets and looking for crimes, the officers make contact with the neighbors and ask them to help out. Connors hands out his business card, urging neighbors to call if they see something.

"I'm their biggest cheerleader of all," says Sue Wilkerson.

The Ogden real estate agent said she has noticed the heavier police presence has dropped the visible crime on her street.

In the four months since the Crime Reduction Squad started, Ashment said they have made approximately 240 arrests, issued 512 citations, visited 123 parolees, issued 62 arrest warrants, conducted 30 drug investigations, caught 22 curfew violators, busted 20 for DUI, served four search warrants and dealt with 16 noise complaints.

Gangs run thick here.

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