A special detail of detectives and members of the Roswell Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team made more than a dozen arrests and seized copious amounts of drugs Feb. 26 while deployed to some of the city’s most troubled areas.
Nine members of the Roswell Police Department’s SWAT Team were paired with nine detectives from the department’s Criminal Investigations Division, and dispatched to five areas in the city, said Captain Kim Northcutt, who oversaw the detail that day.
Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., police taking part in the detail made 16 arrests, 111 traffic stops, executed 15 consent searches or search warrants and issued 70 citations, he said.
Officers also confiscated one firearm, 61.1 grams of marijuana, 180.6 grams of THC wax or vapor, 0.2 grams of heroin and 39 pills. One vehicle was seized in connection with an ongoing narcotics investigation.
The detail on Feb. 26 was the fourth to be carried out. Similar operations happened Feb. 4, Feb. 12 and Feb. 20. Though smaller in size and scale, they produced similar results, including a combined 12 arrests, along with the seizure of drugs, weapons and cash.
Northcutt said the detail is part of an effort by police to take new approaches in tackling the city’s stubbornly high crime rate.
“We all know where the drug houses are, and so what we have done is put together this little team and decided that we would do a trial run for a month just to see how it turns out,” Northcutt said.
Members of the details are instructed to take a zero-tolerance approach to infractions of the law while assigned to a given area. Whether it be speeding, traffic violations, or more serious offenses, officers are urged to investigate anything that arouses reasonable suspicion and instructed to issue citations or make arrests when any law is violated.
The details occur on different days and times, as to not tip off criminal elements.
“We don’t want these guys to have any idea when this is going to happen,” Northcutt said.
The details typically consist of two patrol officers, one detective from the Criminal Investigations Division and a detective from the Special Investigations Division who volunteer.
Each patrol officer is paired up with a detective, before going out in an unmarked unit to the neighborhoods.
Officers involved in a detail are not available to respond to calls, unless in the event of an active violent crime, Northcutt said.
Areas where the details are dispatched are based on lists of houses known for criminal or suspicious activity compiled by patrol officers and detectives. The supervisor in charge will select one or several areas where the detail will be stationed and an operations plan is presented.
“We don’t just go out there and tell them ‘go out there and see if you can catch some bad guys,’ we already know where the bad guys are,” Northcutt said.
One of the major targets are drugs and drug-related offenses. Chief Phil Smith of the Roswell Police Department said illicit narcotics are at the heart of much of the city’s crime.
“It is the root of our violent offenses and our property offenses — they have some basis in the drug culture that is here in Roswell,” Smith said.
The details also work with the city’s code enforcement to shut down some of the houses known for criminal activity. A house on West 13th Street was condemned during the Feb. 4 detail.
Northcutt said many of the houses in areas where the detail go are not up to code and vacant. Some lack running water, have bad electrical problems or mold.
When a violation of the code is found, the city can then start the process of condemning the property. When that happens, people are not legally allowed to enter the house.
“That opens another door for our officers because we have a list now of houses that are condemned,” he said.
Should anyone enter a condemned house or building, Northcutt said, they can be charged with criminal trespass.
Northcutt said condemning the house will hopefully prevent them from being re-inhabited and used for illegal activity.
Aside from reducing crime, Northcutt said the details provide an opportunity for patrol officers who typically have less experience to team up with more seasoned detectives.
That pairing allows patrol officers to get cross-trained or familiarize themselves in the procedures and work of detectives, Smith said.
“It’s kind of an audition,” he said.
The experience, he said, can hopefully inspire younger officers to want to eventually work toward becoming detectives.
Northcutt said the details have already had a great deal of success and are expected to continue as long as they have success. He hopes they send a message to criminal elements.
“I want the guy who is out there in the car, waiting for his buddy who just gave him 100 bucks to go in there and buy some dope, I want that guy to know we are coming after him,” Northcutt said.
However, for the police to succeed in making Roswell safer, the public must also pitch in.
“I think folks and citizens in this town are fed up enough with this issue, that it is time for them to get involved,” Northcutt said.
When people see peculiar activity within their neighborhoods — such as vehicles pulling up to houses at strange hours of the night — they should report it to police, Northcutt said.
Many people are reluctant to contact the police with such tips, he said, thinking they will end up having to testify in court.
What is needed is notification of strange and criminal activity. Northcutt said once they obtain that, police can go about investigating a situation and building the case themselves.
Northcutt said people can contact the police anonymously to tip off police about any strange activity or crime occurring in their neighborhoods.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.