In many ways the arrest last week of a man named Steven Kruse on a drug charge resembled many other arrests by sheriff’s deputies: follow up on tips, do surveillance, make a traffic stop, make the arrest.
There was a difference.
Kruse was arrested by a special assignments unit that sheriff’s officials created in early July, Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said. Deputies and investigators rotate in and out of the unit, which specializes in “proactive” law enforcement and acts instantly on information under the supervision of Sgt. Tony Aaron, Grubbs said.
While the emphasis is on narcotics, the unit will take on crimes of all types.
“We’re limited in scope on this (by) manpower available,” Grubbs said. “This is kind of a pilot program that appears to be working. This appears to be showing a lot of promise. We’ve been talking about this for quite a while.”
Grubbs declined to say how many deputies are assigned to the unit at a time. He said the unit’s creation is not diminishing the patrol division’s ability to respond to calls for service.
Grubbs said he hopes the unit will eventually have the participation of other agencies and become a task force.
Grubbs and Aaron said the unit has made several arrests, including Kruse on Thursday. Kruse, 28, was booked into the Brown County Jail on a charge of manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance in a drug free zone, jail records state. He remained jailed Friday in lieu of $15,000 bond.
“This unit’s going to be strictly proactive and chase down the criminal element in the county and keep them on their heels,” Aaron said. “This unit is reacting immediately. It is reactive to information but proactive in doing surveillance.”
He said Kruse was arrested after the unit, which sheriff’s officials have designated “criminal interdiction unit,” received information that methamphetamine was being sold from a Southside Village apartment.
Through surveillance, the unit learned a pickup parked outside a home on Elizabeth Street contained a backpack with methamphetamine, Aaron said. The unit followed Kruse as he left Southside Village and drove to the Elizabeth Street home. Deputies allege that Kruse got the backpack from the pickup and put it in his car.
After Kruse drove away, patrol deputy Scott Bird and investigator Jason Benefield stopped his car, searched the backpack and found more than 4 grams of methamphetamine and packaging materials, Aaron said.
Deputies also searched the Southside Village apartment and found items associated with drug trafficking.
Aaron said the unit was formed as the result of brainstorming in staff meetings, with sheriff’s officials discussing “what can we do better.”
Deputies are assigned to the unit for two or three months at a time, don't work specific schedules and are relieved of regular patrol duties while assigned to the unit, Grubbs said.
The unit will result in cross-training as deputies are teamed with investigators and as the entire unit focuses on narcotics, he said.
“This makes the entire department versed in narcotics investigations. It makes the department work together as a team,” Grubbs said.
Aaron said narcotics are “the heart and soul of all other offenses,” and impacting drug crimes will impact crimes involving burglaries, thefts and robberies.