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Campbell sees surge in drug arrests, thanks to new PD unit

Published: Sun, January 5, 2014 @ 12:09 a.m.




Ever since the police department put together a special-investigations unit team that focuses only on combating drug trafficking, patrolman Rob Vukovich hasn’t noticed much difference in the amount of traffic that belongs in the city.

But the amount of traffic that doesn’t belong? That’s a different story.

“A lot of problems are caused by people who don’t belong here — those who want to sell and buy drugs here,” said Vukovich, a patrolman with the Campbell Police Department and a member of its SIU team. “The SIU team has sent a clear message: If you don’t have lawful business in this city, keep out.”

From July to December, the SIU team — not the city’s police department as a whole — made 109 drug-related arrests, culminating in 227 drug-related charges and $26,488 in money seized during those drug arrests. Coupled with gun arrests, that amount increases by $14,470, to a total of $40,958.

In contrast, the three months prior to the implementation of the SIU team — from April 1 to June 30 — resulted in 24 drug-related arrests, 53 drug-related charges and $11,421 in money seized during drug arrests.

This seized money subsequently can be used by the police department for “pretty much anything except officer salaries,” said Sgt. John Rusnak, who heads the SIU team. He added that it’s often used for equipment purchases that help the department become more efficient and effective.

Rusnak also noted that the least amount of drug-related arrests in the six months of the SIU team’s existence came in July, which had 14 arrests. That number, however, is still higher than the largest amount of drug-related arrests in the three preceding months; in May, there were 12 arrests.

He called the difference simply “staggering,” and attributed it in part to “a proactive, aggressive attitude and philosophy,” ushered in by changes within the department, such as the appointment of a new police chief.

In addition, the SIU team is unique in that its four members — plus police-dog Storm, the fifth member — work outside the regular patrol schedule. As a result, they aren’t required to take any calls or write any traffic tickets, allowing them to focus solely on drug-related issues.

Rusnak explained that 90 percent of the SIU team’s time is spent observing traffic and making traffic stops, but emphasized that it is not a traffic team. Instead, the SIU team uses traffic as a tool to prevent crime, making a large amount of traffic stops to find criminals, drugs and illegal weapons.

The remaining 10 percent is spent talking to informants to determine where drugs are being sold, for example, or watching known drug houses for suspicious activity.

“When we first started, the majority of the cars we stopped had a warrant suspect, drugs, weapons,” Rusnak said. “But now, in six months’ time, we’re having a hard time finding them.”

“It’s a definite drop-off,” Vukovich added.

Both Rusnak and Vukovich noted that they’ve received numerous compliments from city residents regarding their efforts, with many commenting that they feel safer now in the city than they have in years.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the SIU team has led the police department to consider its expansion into a larger operation, and also to pursue various grants — including one that would fund the purchase of a fingerprint-identification tool, which could prevent a suspect from falsifying his identity.

“Generally, the people who take offense to proactive policing are the people who have something to lose,” Vukovich said. “It just makes the good residents safer.”


1Roger_Thornhill(1053 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Good job!

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2jwhitehawke(110 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Stop illegal drug sales. Stop the violence. End the 'War on Drugs'. History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.

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3southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I wonder what would happen if the Fed & States legalized drug sales, municipalities would need less police and the prisons would be less populated, while the governments would collect billions in taxes - interesting!

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4JoeFromHubbard(1743 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

@ southsidedave:

You are correct.

Legalization of those targeted drugs would go a long way toward reducing an intractable police problem.

Some would argue that legalization would create addiction and related problems. Those can be more effectively dealt with than the current scenario.

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5jwhitehawke(110 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Without the War on Drugs: A system of legalization and regulation will decrease violence, better protect
human rights, safeguard our children, reduce crime and disease, treat people suffering from drug abuse as
patients rather than criminals, use tax dollars more efficiently, and restore the public’s respect and trust in
law enforcement.

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6bumslife(28 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

To those who dispute whitehawkes assertions, how much longer are you going to be willing to keep financing this futile war with more and more taxes? All the pols need to do anymore is say war on drugs or terror and the taxpayers give more and more with their blinders on.

Whitehawk, can you provide the organization made of ex-cops, judges, DAs, etc, who espouse your same basic view (and mine)?

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7DSquared(1757 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Fine. Don't arrest 'em; Shoot 'em!!

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8thirtyninedollars(598 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

nothing but illegal taxation on the poor.
A vicious cycle perpetrated by the government. Here's an idea if they don't care about the seized money, than donate it to organizations that help addicts.

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9juicylucy(26 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

More than improving his department on drug seizures Chief Rauzan is financing his pet projects on the backs of his tax paying citizens who are ticketed and fined for driving a few miles over the ridiculous 25 mph speed limit. Wake up people. Drug seizures bring in drugs and any money seized is an added bonus. Addicts don't pay fines because they are degenerates. It's the tax paying working citizens with jobs who are bringing in the money. The Vindicator should ask for an accounting of how much of those thousands are from drugs and how much from traffic fines. I think it would be very revealing. Rauzan's ego is bigger than his sense of duty. He is not helping the law abiding citizens who drive 40 mph and get a speeding ticket -only helping himself to their money. Did anyone notice the change to 20 mph at the bottom of Coitsville Rd? Think of it as a new tax. Don't vote for anymore tax levies -maybe he'll get the message. Judge Cunning is also playing the game with him.

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10JoeFromHubbard(1743 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

It sounds like Campbell is trying to become the Hubbard of the old days. It was a known fact by city residents that the mayor had a gold mine with his court and crooked cops playing cat and mouse with passing automobiles.

It was so bad that AAA auto maps purposely routed people around Hubbard to avoid the problem.

That problem was replaced by high city income taxes.

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11bumslife(28 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

The more people who bother to become educated on the war on drugs (which our very own self-same govenrment created), the more people who will realize what a money sham it is. It is a blatant failure, a money grab making the rich richer and controling and warehousing those who cannot afford to buy their consequences. Do your research instead of just assuming the truth as spoon-fed to you by the government.

Why are we the only progressive country that on any given day can make money (thru the stock market) based on how many bodies are in a jail cell on any given day? If that doesn't speak volumes, then keep wallowing in ignorance...

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