07/18/11 — A.C.E. team sets sights on cutting back crime

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A.C.E. team sets sights on cutting back crime

By Gary Popp
Published in News on July 18, 2011 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Cantwell checks his cruiser before starting the day. Cantwell is part of a new team called A.C.E., a targeted law enforcement effort that is designed to conduct special investigations.

Just call them the Crimebusters.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office once again has a team of specialized investigators standing by to track down and stomp out crime wherever they are needed.

The Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Team was originally created in 1996 to be used as an extra hand for special assignments, said Capt. Richard Lewis, one of the ranking deputies involved in delegating the team's operations.

It was disbanded in 2009.

The new team will have a laser view, focusing on investing the time and investigative work necessary to attack problems that cannot be addressed simply by a deputy responding to a scene.

"The (team) will be working the complaints that are coming in and dealing with, what I refer to as, quality-of-life issues," Lewis said. "These individuals are not out there answering the calls for service, per se, but concentrating on the complaint areas."

So, if a call comes in that a house is the center of a suspected drug operation, a deputy might take the initial report, but it might be the A.C.E. team that sits outside to watch the comings and goings and, ultimately, catches the bad guys.

Lewis said the team can offer a concentrated effort when and where it is needed. By not serving in one division of the Sheriff's Office, the team can address problems that arise unexpectedly, such as the sale of narcotics out of a home or a rash of break-ins in a particular neighborhood.

The fluidity of the team will allow other deputies in the patrol and investigations divisions to more efficiently perform their jobs, Lewis added.

"The volume of calls that come in keeps the patrol deputies, basically, hopping from call, to call, to call," he said. "They really cannot slow down and really concentrate on working a certain area, or residence or complaint area because by the time they do get there, get settled in and start surveillance, they get a call and they have to leave and go answer another call."

The A.C.E. Team is designed to work those areas that might require hours or days of surveillance, allowing the patrol officers to respond to calls.

The team can also be called upon to assist detectives in need of manpower.

"Investigations (division) may say we have a tip that some stolen items are being kept by a certain individual. We would be able to sit up on them, and, in stealthy manner you could say, we would try to catch them and assist with that while they are continuing with other investigations," A.C.E. Team member Sgt. Matt Miller said.

Miller was pulled from the Goldsboro/Wayne County Interagency Drug Task Force to serve as the team's street-level supervisor. He is also sworn in as an FBI Task Force officer, which allows him to take out federal charges against criminals in and out of Wayne County.

The idea, Miller said, is to stop crime before it can get started -- or to curb a problem before it gets more serious.

"We are a more proactive team that tries to go out and stop some of these crimes or eliminate the criminals that are causing these problems before we get a call from a victim," he said. "We have probably more training and experience in dealing with specifics that will help us get the job done when you have other divisions that are trying to keep a broad prospective."

Miller said on a typical day the duties of the team can change from one hour to the next, but combating the effects of drug use will never be far from the top of the team's priority list.

"Most of your crime in a community is the result of narcotics," Miller said. "To say that we are focusing on narcotics is still addressing the other issues. If you are working the narcotics and you are trying to catch the dealers and make it harder for them, then you are helping out the community, and that should trickle down and affect (the public) in a significant way."

Lewis said he wants the A.C.E. members to establish bonds with community members.

"My vision is that this team will become embraced by citizens, and that we will eventually develop a rapport so that a flow of information is generated between citizens and law enforcement, so that whatever type of crime might be taking place, we are going to get information," Lewis said. "That is how we make cases. It takes the people to solve crime."

He said he wants the community to know his officers.

"These (A.C.E.) members are going to have to get out of the car and talk to people. They have to get out there and knock on doors and explain to people why they are out there."

Miller said the description of the A.C.E. Team includes not only its service, but availability to the public.

"You can specifically request that the A.C.E. Team help with something. If you have a community crime watch, we will come out and be glad to talk with various groups in the community," he said.

Miller oversees a team of four deputies who have been selected from the Patrol Division for the eagerness and commitment they have exhibited on the job.

"These individuals from the patrol division were officers who showed initiative in getting out here and working, following through on calls that they were able to and their ability to work felony cases," Harris said.

The deputies are Aaron Cantwell, Chuck Arnold, Jerimee Hooker and Travis Sparks.

"These guys are top notch, sharp guys," Miller said of the deputies working under him.

And while he will push his team to work hard to solve cases and to stop crime before it starts, Miller said he has another, equally important, goal.

"Our main success is that everyone goes home safe," he said.