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.

On Washington Boulevard, officer Hammond stops a Jeep Grand Cherokee and is searching a teenager, asking him if he has any drugs or weapons on him. As a 14-year-old boy is questioned, he spits on the ground, a sign of disrespect to police in the gang culture.

"Who do you run with?" Hammond asks him.

"I'm not that kind of person. I'm cool with anybody," the boy replies.

The other teen is honoring a gang code of silence, refusing to talk.

Ogden Metro Gang Unit officers arrive and eventually take them both into custody. The 14-year-old, it turns out, is wanted for criminal mischief. The other, 18, is wanted for graffiti.

Drugs are also a factor in most of the crime the squad faces, Kaufman said.

"It drives all the crime," he said. "From your thefts to your murders, assaults, everything revolves around the dope."

Methamphetamine remains a huge problem, but crack-cocaine is making a comeback. Throughout the night, Kaufman has been watching several drug houses.

On Monroe Boulevard, he stops a car that pulled away from a nearby drug house without signaling. The driver gives Kaufman consent to search his car, and he comes up with a crack pipe.

Evans is questioning a 17-year-old girl in the car, who admits to having a crack pipe and a knife in her purse.

"Where's your dope?" Evans asks her. "Your tongue's all white. How long has it been since you fired up?"

"Give or take 20 minutes," she mumbles.

In his car, Kaufman reads the man his rights and tells him he's being taken to jail for possession of drug paraphernalia.

"Do you want to talk to me at all?" he asks.

"I'm already arrested. Why would I want to talk?" the man replies.

Outside, a woman in a nearby apartment screams at the officers through her front window. Eventually, she begins pacing outside her front door.

The woman appears increasingly agitated. Connors tries to approach her.

"Hey, I want to talk to you," he says.

"Noooooooo!" the woman shrieks as she starts running toward her door.

Connors and officer Heather Harris chase after her. The woman turns and throws a beer can at Connors, hitting him. They tackle her.

"Jeeeesus! Jeeeesus!" she shrieks. "(Expletive) you!"

The woman is handcuffed and later booked into jail on investigation of assault on an officer, avoiding apprehension, intoxication and interfering with a public servant.

"She hit me in the face with a beer," Connors says as he wipes Keystone Light off of his face.

Word on the street

The word is out on the streets about the new police crackdown.

Officer Scott Gardiner stops a group of tough-looking men in a GMC Yukon on Patterson Street for driving without working license plate lights. One man admits to having an open can of beer, and another says he's the designated driver.

Eventually, Gardiner lets them go without a citation. They were honest with him, and he appreciates it.

"I may see him another time and he may walk up to me and talk to me. He may give me some information another time, just because he had a decent experience," he says.

The city is paying for the extra officers for the squad. Crime statistics will be evaluated to measure the squad's effectiveness.

"We've made a lot of arrests and we've probably reduced the number of calls in the area," Ashment says.

"Ogden's not as bad as everyone thinks it is," Hamblin offers.

It's an assessment the other officers share, saying that the perception of Ogden as a rough city isn't reality.

"There's a lot of criminals living in the neighborhoods, but there's more good people than bad," Kaufman says. "We're out here making it safer."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com