A first-of-its-kind technology is helping track down the biggest criminals in the county. The District Attorney’s new Crime Strategies Unit has only been up and running for a few months, but it’s already helping secure high-profile convictions.
“We’re taking out the most important criminals,” said Special Agent in Charge Kyle Hartsock.
Hartsock leads CSU, a team of investigators who weave social media and technical evidence together while making a web of the worst criminals in the county.
The unit focuses on tracking the behavior of people involved in known and unknown crime groups ultimately hoping to catch them all.
“Crime actually fits a pattern. These things are predictable,” said Hartsock.
Though, the technology CSU is creating and using works in both big and small ways.
“It’s like a macro and a micro look at it,” said Hartsock.
It can help in isolated incidents, like in the case of Ken Trang. The unit was able to dig deeper into the case, leading them to the home surveillance video showing Trang threatening his girlfriend and her daughter. Trang pleaded guilty.
It also works on a larger scale.
“We’re able to identify some hidden criminal networks in the city,” said District Attorney Raul Torrez.
The unit compiles thousands of police reports from APD and BCSO to connect criminals to each other.
“You start seeing those clusters of people who keep popping up again and again and again,” said Torrez.
This technology is why Torrez was well aware of Scott Gibbs at the time he was accused of carjacking four UNM students.
“[Gibbs] was identified as being a member of a group, who was a high impact person within that group,” said Torrez.
Torrez says that knowledge led them to try Gibbs federally, where he’ll likely face a tougher sentence.
“We are getting early indications that if we focus on the right groups and the right people we might be able to get to a place where we’re being more proactive rather than reactive,” said Torrez.
Torrez says taking a special interest in repeat criminals who are part of larger circles and separating them from people who commit ‘one-off’ crimes will also change the way they prosecute people who may be less of a risk.
“They’re struggling with addiction, they’ve got something else going on, but their relative threat to public safety is much lower. So, you can do different things with that individual than someone who is part of a criminal network,” said Torrez.
Torrez says this unit is about protecting people in Bernalillo County while predicting the behavior of people trying to hurt them.
“You know, we’re not flipping over tarot cards, we’re using hard evidence,” said Hartsock.
The unit is currently funded by $1.1 million over three years from the state legislature. The DA plans to ask for permanent funding for the project next year.