Topics / LAW ENFORCEMENT : Deputies Take a New Tack on Criminals With Team Policing : The Sheriff’s Department program in Carson includes neighborhood meetings and off-patrol time to create and execute anti-crime plans.
A new program at the Carson Sheriff’s Department gives deputies time to mastermind plans to fight crime rather than just chase criminals after crimes have been committed.
In a carefully choreographed sting recently, for example, deputies faked a traffic stop and arrest, leaving a sports car on the street with a videocassette recorder and cellular phone on the front seat. Less than an hour later, two men broke into the car and tried to take the electronics gear.
A deputy watching from inside a nearby home summoned patrol cars, and within minutes, the suspects were taken into custody.
The plan was drawn up and executed by a group of deputies operating under the Team Policing program at the station.
Under the program, deputies are assigned to teams responsible for specific geographic regions. Team members are given one day a week off patrol to create and execute plans to stop crime.
“Since you’re working one targeted area, you know your problem areas,” said Deputy Frank Lobato. “One day a week you can just concentrate on that area.”
In its first five months, deputies created 21 of these plans, which have resulted in 52 arrests and 49 citations, departmental figures show. Besides the sting with the sports car, deputies have rounded up people who drink in public, added patrols where neighbors have complained about drug dealing, and stalked taggers in their favorite graffiti spots.
Initially, some members of the Sheriff’s Department suspected that community policing had more to do with public relations than policing.
“Going into it, a lot of people were very leery,” said Deputy Joseph Dempsey. “They thought it might mean just having tea and coffee with people.”
But Sgt. Todd Rogers wants residents to know the program is a serious effort to reduce crime. Rogers designed the concept for his master’s thesis at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“It’s not a public relations gimmick at all. We have this program to effect meaningful change,” Rogers said.
Each area’s team targets a particular crime based on calls for help or an increase in crime. The teams also hold neighborhood meetings each month to find out what concerns residents. Then the deputies meet to devise a plan.
Deputies say being able to interact with residents who aren’t criminals has reduced their “siege mentality” and given them greater job satisfaction.
“The majority of people are decent, upstanding people . . . but (on patrol) we are not dealing with the everyday good citizens,” Dempsey said. “This is kind of refreshing.”
Leo Moore, who helped organize the Neighborhood Watch in Centerview, said the pilot program for team policing in his neighborhood helped cut down crime. “I am very much in favor of a community-type policing program,” Moore said.
The Carson station is the first Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department facility to try the approach. By restructuring the schedule, the department formed the new teams without adding deputies or paying overtime.
In April, Capt. Joseph P. James approved the project for all Carson deputies. Teams serve the North City, South City and county area. Under the new system, deputies work in the same part of the city for at least six months.
The citywide team policing effort hasn’t been as personalized as the pilot program, Moore said. During the pilot program he knew the deputies’ patrol schedule and could call specific people when a stripped car was parked on his block or residents were blasting their music.
Moore isn’t the only Centerview resident who became accustomed to being able to call a particular deputy.
“Even though I don’t work in the (Centerview) area anymore . . . when they have problems, they tend to call me,” Dempsey said.