[Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department] – The International Association of Chiefs of Police on Tuesday will present the Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigations to the Special Problems Unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departments’ Transit Services Bureau at its annual banquet in Chicago. These awards recognize quality achievement and innovation in managing and conducting criminal investigations, with the goal of sharing information to advance the art and science of criminal investigations. The Transit Services SPU Team was notified in June of this year that they were one of twenty-one finalists. After a vetting process, they were notified that they were one of three award recipients.
In 2003, when LASD Transit Services Bureau was awarded the entire policing contract for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it became clear that there was a need for a specialized unit within TSB to deal with the detailed and complex investigations into the property crimes that were already plaguing the MTA, and costing Metro hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to their buses, trains, and properties. The SPU Team was developed to handle those investigations.
Since then, the team has become innovators in the area of vandalism investigations. So much so that they have shared their knowledge and expertise, not only within the Sheriff’s Department, but with other police agencies dealing with the same graffiti tagger, and tagging crew problems. In April of 2010, the SPU Team hosted a Graffiti Symposium, where over 240 investigators met to exchange investigative methods and hear from industry experts in the field of vandalism investigations.
Understanding the personnel constraints on most agencies, the TSB SPU Team has devised investigative techniques which are effective and efficient. In 2010, when Orange County Law Enforcement introduced the Tracking and Automated Graffiti Reporting System, TAGRS for short, the SPU Team knew they would be able to implement this database as part of their intelligence program.
This information sharing has led to the arrest of many vandals and their associates, who may never have been identified if not for the innovative and cutting edge investigations of the TSB SPU Team.
The SPU Team has developed close investigative ties with the LA County D.A.’s Office, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and many other prosecuting agencies. The LA City Attorney’s Office was so interested in putting a stop to the vandals who cost taxpayers and property owners millions of dollars each year, that they began writing the first “Tagger” injunction in the county. This injunction, which is similar to the gang injunctions secured by several southland law enforcement agencies, makes it a crime for convicted felony vandals to even be in the company of other convicted taggers.
The TSB SPU Team consists of approximately 30 sworn personnel who work closely with Crime Analysts and other staff to track vandalism trends stay a step ahead of the taggers and their crews.