The IMPACT Division was founded by Sheriff Scott R. Jones and his team at the Sacramento County (California) Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) to combat violent street gangs through a multi-faceted approach. With an estimated 12,000 gang members, Sacramento County has been plagued with gang-related criminal activity ranging from narcotics trafficking to homicides. IMPACT is comprised of three units at its core, the Youth Services Unit, the Intelligence Operations Group, and the Gang Suppression Unit. All three collectively provide an approach that engages different parts of the community in an effort to prevent gang membership while pursuing active gang members, resulting in a well rounded method to eliminating violent street gangs.
The Youth Services Unit (YSU) follows a collaborative approach to proactively and positively address youth violence and delinquency. This unit is partnering with organizations such as Asian Resources Incorporated, Rosemount Community Association, the Boys and Girls Club, 100 Black Men of Sacramento, and Elk Grove and San Juan School Districts in an attempt to reach out to the community. These partnerships are providing opportunities for mentoring, community engagement, youth empowerment, community awareness, and other activities where youth can engage with law enforcement in a positive way. The YSU works with each school district and each school to offer youth positive interactions with police by participating in activity fairs, presentations, and assemblies. The officers of YSU aim to reduce future involvement in gangs and violence and directly impact the community as a whole. The YSU also works with the Intelligence Operations Group (IOG) to create gang surveys that can be presented at youth events and community forums.
The IOG incorporates the community policing model with intelligence led policing to provide analyzed information and data in a timely manner. The information is verified and then disseminated to the regional law enforcement community on a daily basis. The first project for the IOG was a comprehensive assessment of the gang problem in all 14 school districts in Sacramento County. The officers used this information and their other data to provide information on the 300 gangs in the region, from inter-gang conflict to narcotics and weapons sales to post incarceration community conflict. SCSD is the first local agency to use Palantir Technologies, to help with data analysis, search, and storage. The IOG provides this analysis in various formats—from network maps to baseball cards to reports—which the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) utilizes.
The GSU is a robust unit, with 28 officers from nine different departments, who are engaged in a targeted approach to investigating and eliminating gang activity. The GSU have been able to react in a fast-paced environment, acting on intelligence in real-time. For example, GSU detectives were able to track members of the Hop Sing gang and the Khome Zing Tong (KZT) within 30 minutes of a shooting on January 12, 2012 because they recognized the description of the shooters. These efforts by the GSU resulted in the arrest of eight gang members, who were charged with attempted murder, as well as seizures of illegal drugs and weapons. The GSU has been able to repeat this success many times throughout the first 3 months of the implementation of IMPACT, with a result of no gang-related homicides during that time, compared to the same period in 2011 that saw six gang-related homicides. Sheriff Scott Jones spoke with Dispatch Production Manager Nazmia Alqadi and special contributor Amber Jabeen on Friday, March 30, 2012 about the IMPACT Division and its robust success.
The Youth Services Unit (YSU) Photo Gallery (Click on images to enlarge)
CP Dispatch: What was the impetus for IMPACT?
Sheriff Scott R. Jones: My realization that youth violence was surging in this region and it was a growing problem. In late 2010, we decided to make this a priority, and included it in the 2011 strategic plan. We didn’t have the resources, but we wanted to set up a plan. We decided to write our COPS application specifically to address youth gangs. We were awarded 25 officers and they were devoted strictly to this initiative.
CP Dispatch: What kinds of partners are involved with IMPACT?
Sheriff Jones: On the local law enforcement side, we are partnered with Citrus Heights [CA] Police Department, Elk Grove [CA] Police Department, Galt [CA] Police Department, and Rancho Cordova [CA] Police Department. At the state level, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and California Army National Guard. Finally, at the federal level, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Services, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As for community partnerships, we are working with the Elk Grove and San Juan School Districts, the Boys and Girls Club [of Greater Sacramento], faith based organizations [Saint Paul’s Family Life Center], and Asian Resources [Incorporated], we haven’t said no to anybody. We started a Sheriff’s Athletic League and work with the park and recreation districts to help with summer camps [and other activities]. [We get tickets and merchandise] from the Kings and River Cats.
CP Dispatch: How successful has the program been? How are you measuring your success?
Sheriff Jones: We have not officially launched the program publicly, we are hoping to launch and have a press conference the beginning of May. Just looking at some statistics since the inception of the program, January 1, 2012 through March, we have had zero gang-related homicides in any jurisdiction that IMPACT covers [2011 had six just in the Sheriff’s jurisdiction]. We arrested 86 legitimate gang members, seized 66 firearms—26 of which were shotguns/rifles, 40 handguns, and one fully automatic machine gun. We have recovered almost seven pounds of cocaine, over 300 pounds of marijuana, over four ounces of Methamphetamine, about 400 marijuana plants, and 127 ecstasy pills. We are very focused and targeted; we are definitely not shooting in the dark. The results are absolutely phenomenal.
CP Dispatch: Did you look to any other programs nationally or internationally as a model for IMPACT?
Sheriff Jones: No, there is nothing else like this. I had a vision [but] I never worked as a gang officer. I used to be a commander for a gang unit, and I went to them and asked them ‘what do you need for gang investigations if you had anything?’ and they came up with the idea. Most of the credit goes to those guys, the gang investigators.
CP Dispatch: How has social media helped IMPACT?
Sheriff Jones: For the first time, this department has a strategic planning process and with our 2012 strategic plan, we are creating a social media policy, which will definitely include applications for our IMPACT Division. We will be developing applications [accounts] for social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s important for kids to be able to see what’s going on and be able to find something to do. We hope to have everything up and running soon. We will also be giving out a dedicated cell phone number that people in the community can use to get in touch with someone immediately who can talk to them or help them find the right people to address their issues. Every young person should have one number that they can call. The phone will be assigned to an IMPACT officer, and will be manned 24-hours a day, with a rotating schedule.
Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) Photo Gallery (Click on images to enlarge)
CP Dispatch: How did you get buy-in?
Sheriff Jones: I didn’t need to get buy-in, but the strategy I used has been to wow them with the results instead of trying to persuade them beforehand and it’s been working. We make sure to keep everyone informed by briefing them on the successes of the program and of the different units [intelligence, gang, youth services]. Internally, it’s important to keep providing information, especially since we hand-selected the 25 officers. There was a lot of buzz and excitement about this unit. In reality, we all got into this business for the same reason, and then we go through a disillusionment period, but now this unit gets to do what we all wanted to do—reach out to the kids. An important part of this is getting the right people into the right position, [those] who are passionate about what they are doing and can fulfill their desire of being involved with the kids in communities affected by gang violence.
CP Dispatch: Any plans to conduct an evaluation?
Sheriff Jones: We are planning through our 2012 strategic plan to develop metrics and measures for success. In order to do so we have to gather stats and track data. Before this year we never tracked, for example, which shootings were gang related. This is something that will take time, [and] require us to go back through previous data and mine the salient facts. We will be tracking every facet of our IMPACT operation through our Intelligence Operations Group.
CP Dispatch: How is IMPACT representing the spirit of community policing?
Sheriff Jones: IMPACT represents community policing in three ways. It is truly reducing youth violence and [creating] a better environment and quality of life for everyone. Also, this unit is truly a regional effort tackling a regional problem and solving the problem. Finally, the unit is going into all facets of the community, we are trying to touch all parts of the community, build a community of trust, and provide more effective law enforcement.
CP Dispatch: What is the long-term vision for IMPACT?
Sheriff Jones: We know that we cannot arrest our way out of the gang problem. We need to slow the flow on the back end and change the fundamental reasons that young people go into gangs, or we will never get ahead of the problem. We also need to continue to use intelligence to pick off prolific and violent offenders from the front end. And now we can target both ends; we will never get rid of criminal street gangs completely, but we will greatly reduce their numbers and efficacy, and put them back into the shadows, deglamorize them.
CP Dispatch: Currently, you are using COPS Hiring Program funds for the project. When the grant ends, how do you plan on sustaining this Division?
Sheriff Jones: Clearly, this recent economic crisis has demonstrated that law enforcement can no longer afford to do business as usual. We are faced with having to fundamentally change the way we’ve done business for essentially the last 200 years in this country. As a result, we are becoming leaner, more effective, more engaged with the public, more introspective, and using technology more effectively. [Consequently], we will see many improvements and efficiencies to law enforcement during this period. One such improvement is our IMPACT Division. Regardless of continued funding under the grant, this Division’s effectiveness will be so well established that its continuation will no longer be discretionary but necessary. Further, this unit is a catalyst for our entire department’s movement toward intelligence-led policing; so much of our IMPACT function will become intertwined with the rest of our operations.
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