9 On Your Side Crime Watch
Sheriff's deputies take down criminals with laser-like tactics
Captain: Patrolling is like fishing; HIOP is like hunting
Sophisticated criminals: they break the law, yet manage to stay under the radar. That is, until now. Video by kgun9.comvideo
HIOP deputies track down burglary suspects and prepare to capture them at a local motel.
Capt. Byron Gwaltney says HIOP combines good old fashioned community policing with the advances of modern technology to effectively hunt criminals.
Dep. McNeely questions suspects associating with people in homes that the HIOP team identified as being connected to criminal activity.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department says the HIOP program has been very successful at putting criminals behind bars - and plans to roll it out in Green Valley next.
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Sophisticated criminals: they break the law, yet manage to stay under the radar. That is, until now.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has a new program to get rid of the bad guys for good: the High Impact Offenders Program (HIOP).
Traffic stops by HIOP deputies may appear normal, but the people handcuffed are far from; in fact, deputies who make the stops know exactly whom they’re targeting – including drug dealers, thieves and gangsters.
Deputies including 7-year-veteran Jamie McNeely know how to find them.
“Everybody we make contact with, everybody is usually related to a specific residence or a specific individual,” McNeely said.
HIOP deputies do surveillance on the home of a possible troublemaker and follow those who come and go with zero tolerance. They stop those who associate with the people in the home even for a minor traffic violation.
Deputies stopped one driver who claimed it was a year since he last smoked drugs. However, a drug-detecting K-9 indicated there were drugs in the vehicle – and deputies later found powdered residue and a portable scale. They also found counterfeit money that required the help of Secret Service at the scene.
Captain Byron Gwaltney, who is in charge of HIOP, said everyday patrolling is like fishing, while this new program is similar to hunting.
“We can use our intelligence assets, our analysis and our relationship with the community to hunt, to specifically target who they’re going to be and be there when they’re committing crimes,” Gwaltney told 9 On Your Side.
At the heart of the program is good old fashioned community policing. Tips from talking to neighbors and 88-crime clue deputies into the who and the where. Deputies then use a laser-like focus to catch the bad guys when they're in the act.
Inside the vehicle of another man, deputies found methamphetamine bongs, burglary tools, dozens of keys along with a list of different cars that - deputies believe - he planned on stealing.
Other arrests are more dangerous: Deputies devise a plan to catch two burglary suspects, as they go over possible scenarios.
“Allegedly, there are multiple firearms. I don’t have the exact number, but there’s supposed to be a large number of them taken in one of the burglaries. Some of those firearms are supposed to be in this motel room,” McNeely said.
So after planning and getting much backup, they set up near the motel room, with their rifles drawn, prepared for anything. Our cameras stayed a safe distance back as McNeely told the people inside the room to come out. They are arrested and hauled off.
“Trying to make the community better, trying to remove the criminal element from the community,” McNeely said, when asked why he chose to become a deputy.
Even if the criminals get out of jail, the HIOP team - including McNeely - will be on their tail.
9 On Your Side attempts to contact the suspects in the story were unsuccessful.
Arranging the ride along required a great deal of coordination and access, and KGUN9 News would like to thank the Pima County Sheriff's Department for making the story possible.