File photo

File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The recent arrest of three people in a Keizer home has highlighted ongoing efforts by the Keizer Police Department to combat drug use.

Police Chief John Teague has implemented several changes since taking over his duties in September 2013, including restarting the CRU (Community Response Unit) squad, bringing back a position formerly dedicated to the Salem Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) task force and shifting some patrol resources to investigations.

Teague said bringing back Chris Nelson as a detective was needed, even though it negatively impacted the task force.

“We didn’t have enough guys with him over there,” Teague said. “Chris is a tremendously gifted investigator. He’s investigating more than just drug trafficking. We are lucky to have him back with us.”

While drug investigations aren’t the only things helped by the changes, Teague feels they certainly did benefit.

“There were things not getting done,” he said. “Drug complaints were not being investigated reliably. For people calling about drug houses, this is affecting their lives and their neighborhood. We didn’t have the resources to go after it.”

In January, the four-person CRU team, headed by sergeant Bob Trump, was brought back online after being dormant for several years. Other recent changes have included hiring a full-time crime analyst, having officers spend less time on reports for more mundane calls and more collaboration.

“We re-approached the way patrol does reporting,” Teague said. “There used to be written reports for every call. An officer might spend two minutes on a call, then spend 20 minutes on a report. We’ve changed that. We’re not tracking all low-level calls, which frees up our guys to solve problems. We still have records of everything we’ve done, but we’d rather have people solving problems in neighborhoods.”

Each morning, CRU members have briefings with the patrol, detective, crime analysis and school resource officer units.

“There’s a synergy there to have the CRU guys work with others,” Teague said. “It used to be the departments were more isolated.”

Trump said CRU members help dig up core problems.

“Basically CRU’s mission is to focus on issues identified within a community,” he said. “It’s neighborhood problem solving, looking at personal issues with law enforcement attracting a lot of calls and assessing why that is occurring and to get a response to that problem. Often we find the nexus of the problem has something to do with drug or substance abuse.”

When any department at the KPD notices key issues coming up or a disproportionate number of calls, CRU is engaged.

“CRU is the unit that has the capability to follow and solve the issue,” Trump said. “Maybe it’s surveillance. There are different tactics we use. Sometimes it means a search warrant. We address those long-term issues.”

Trump said the morning talks with different departments have been a big boon.

“We worked together well before, but that really changed things for the better,” he said. “Things from the meeting lead to open discussion, maybe talk of a lot of calls at a particular place.”

Trump said a lot of drug cases are complaint-driven, with someone telling police about a suspected drug house.

“When in contact with people, they may tell us some things,” he said. “We find out what the drug of choice is.”

In the recent Erin and Jarrod Wells case, Trump said an investigation started in June.

“We spent some time on it,” Trump said. “Through our investigation we legally gained a search warrant with probable cause for heroin being distributed. Our (tactics) run the gamut from a knock-and-talk or an encounter. Sometimes citizens will call and suspect there is a drug house. Sometimes we will ask people what’s going on and build the rapport, then search the house.”

Trump said an database of abandoned houses is maintained, with officers going by from time to time, making sure they are not being used for any sort of illegal activity. One such house was being used for drugs earlier this year, leading to arrests.

Despite several fairly high-profile arrests, Trump knows more drug homes are out there.

“You try to be as impactful as you can with the information you have,” he said. “We’re not going to cure every ail. We do the best we can with the information we have.”

Anyone with information about a suspicious home can call the general KPD number, 503-390-3713.