Three weeks into a special detail targeting property and violent crimes in west Mesa, police have arrested 85 people, most of them repeat offenders.
Mesa police Sgt. J.R. Gomez and his team of five officers patrol the streets and hunt down criminals in an area where robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries were happening nearly every day of the week.
They don’t take regular police calls, but instead actively look for crime.
“Our focus is to deter, solve and catch criminals committing those crimes,” Gomez said.
The officers also tell residents in the area bordered by Broadway and Guadalupe roads and Extension Road to Center Street, how to stay safe.
Since the special detail — called the “BRAVE squad” — began three weeks ago, the officers have arrested 32 people for drug crimes, 23 for warrants and 22 for criminal traffic-related offenses among other offenses.
Ninety percent of the suspects had either been arrested before or were on probation or parole for one of those crimes.
“We’ve done a lot of contacting people and going beyond the scope of normal patrol,” Gomez said. Officers have gained information into other crimes and have fingerprinted and documented more than 100 people they’ve encountered. The information will help them solve future crimes, and even past ones. The officers also provide a strong police presence, with marked cars saturating the area.
“Some of the guys arrested made comments that they had seen or heard us out there,” Gomez said. “One suspect even said he had a ‘bad feeling’ he’d be arrested.”
Police officers said they believe this proves the message is resonating with criminals. And they said they hope residents and businesses know they are out there protecting them.
“I think what they’re trying to do is just clean up the area,” said Kevin Alms, owner of the Sports Exchange exercise equipment store in a strip mall near Country Club Drive and Southern Avenue. Alms said landlords in his area have complained about crime and transients. Fortunately, he said, he has not been a victim of a serious crime. But he grows frustrated with transients loitering in front of his store.
“You’re trying to predict human behavior and put resources where they should be,” said police Lt. Andy Alonzo. “You’re dealing with humans and sometimes they’re hard to predict.”
That’s why Alonzo said he and Gomez selected officers with a “seventh sense” and “officer street I.Q.” for spotting crime. The special proactive detail has seized guns, knives, brass knuckles, two cars, drugs and money.
They also arrested a man who broke into a home and made a ham sandwich and a man they suspect sold drugs at Golfland Sun-Splash.
Police said over the next five weeks, they hope to stop even more crime from occurring in the area.
“Most of the people committing these crimes are on drugs or using drugs or selling drugs,” Gomez said.
Alonzo added, “When you talk about the sheer numbers of people (police) are removing, that obviously has an impact.”
Crime trends in west Mesa
May 28 through June 24
Aggravated assaults: 26
Residential burglaries: 24
Stolen vehicles: 61
Vehicle burglaries: 76
June 25 to July 8
Aggravated assaults: 6
Residential burglaries: 20
Stolen vehicles: 35
Vehicle burglaries: 50
Source: Mesa Police Department