Exclusive: 10 News rides along with Lynchburg police SIRT team
Since May 30, SIRT team has arrested 44 people
LYNCHBURG, Va – The SIRT team, which is made up of officers with years of experience, hit Lynchburg streets to fight guns, drugs and gang activity.
"We're not out here to stop and search everybody. That's not what we're here to do. We're here to use intelligence-led policing, which is what has gotten us towards certain neighborhoods to go after prolific offenders who are people who have come up in reports over the last 36 months a certain number of times, and we are here to deal with those specific people,” Sgt. Joel Hinkley said.
In the 16 operational days since May 30 that SIRT has been on the streets a total of 44 arrests were made, eight felony drug charges were filed, along with six misdemeanor drug charges and three gun charges. In one operation, 19 fugitives were arrested.
Overnight, the team drives through seven communities in the Hill City, where there have been four homicides this year. Three are still unsolved.
"I think the more that we can be seen and be visual in the community and that the criminals know we're there, the less activity that's going to go on, and the more we establish relationships with the citizens in those communities, then the less crime's going to occur,” Hinkley said.
In the six hours 10 News was with the SIRT team, we watched them check on a tip, make a traffic stop and help on violent calls. We were in the area of one of the neighborhoods for one such call and heard yelling.
As it turned out, two brothers got into a fight and a rock was thrown into one of their cars.
“The brother got out of the car and they started wrestling in the street, and the brother said he hit him twice. Both times in the face,” Officer John Pavia explained to another officer.
Another a call about shots fired turned out to just be fireworks
"There's fireworks right here in the street,” Hinkley told 10 New as we drove around. Hinkley called dispatch to say, "You can clear the shots fired calls, there's remnants of fireworks at Willow and Bedford.” He then added, "You never know, you have to check it out."
On our Friday night ride-along, we learned in the few short weeks they've been patrolling the certain areas, community members have noticed a difference on their blocks.
"He lives on Victoria and he was like, 'Man, y'all done scared everybody away,'" an officer told Hinkley.
Hinkley replied, 'OK,' and the officer went on to say, 'He was like, 'So, it's good to see you out here.'"
Hinkley said, "'Alright, I'm glad they're glad to see us.'"
The officer replied, "We're gonna walk around and make sure no one's hiding in the shadows,” to which Hinkley said, "Alright, sounds good, we'll see you around.”
Though the summer crime-fighting has just begun for the SIRT team, they tell WSLS some people have been open to their presence and others have not.
But they say it's still a working progress. Lynchburg police encourage residents to download the Central Virginia Crime Stoppers app to report crime, which can be done anonymously.
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