A program in Pinal County is helping bring some of the most violent criminals to justice. KGUN9 was invited on a ride-along with the county's G.H.O.S.T. squad, a team that has a new proactive approach to fighting crime in the area.
The seven-member Gang And Habitual Offender Strike Team was formed in 2017 by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. It is run by Pinal County Sheriff's Office Sargeant Mark Miller. "We go after gang and habitual offenders and continue to commit crimes in our area," Sgt. Miller said. Their job is to track down the worst of the worst and take the burden off the patrol deputies who are busy responding to other calls in the county.
The seven members of the squad spent their day tracking several suspects. The first target was an individual who is wanted on a felony warrant for an aggravated robbery where several weapons were stolen. The suspect is well-known to law-enforcement, Sgt. Miller said. " We have been in a pursuit before, taken into custody, arrested, booked into jail and released, but now he's back on the streets and has another felony warrant," he explained.
After discussing a strategy and arriving at the location, deputies quickly surrounded the house and knocked on the front door. They were told by the suspect's father that he wasn't inside. However, after several of hours of discussion, deputies were given permission to check for themselves but had no luck. The suspect's father was warned, "he has a felony warrant, so now you know that so now if you talk to him and I find out you talk to him, I'm taking you to jail too," Sgt. Miller said.
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The team then headed just a couple of miles north to a mobile home park in Casa Grande, looking for a man wanted on a felony warrant for aggravated domestic violence. Deputies were greeted by a woman who claims the suspect wasn't in the home and hasn't been for several months. This was another failed attempt to make an arrest or direct contact with a suspect, but not necessarily unsuccessful, Sgt. Miller explained.
According to Sgt. Miller, the team always gets lied to, however, he argues even if they don't find the person they are looking for, the footwork serves a purpose. The team is trying to reduce the areas where suspects can actually hide out in Pinal County and in the state of Arizona. "each house that we knock on, each door and apartment or person we talk to we close that area off in our attempts to limit the amount of places for someone who is on the run feels comfortable," he said.
Although no arrests were made, Sgt. Miller and G.H.O.S.T. know it is better to be proactive rather than reactive, to keep their community safe.
Learn more about Pinal County Sheriff's programs online;