Special Investigations Unit to address gang violence
The Lompoc Police Department will launch a new Special Investigations Unit in the coming weeks to address an uptick in violent crime and shootings.
The team will consist of three officers — the supervisor who has been with the department for more than 15 years, an officer approaching a decade of working at the department and another officer with three years of experience with Lompoc Police Department.
Capt. Kevin Martin emphasized the importance of not limiting the investigations to any specific kind of cases.
“Whatever problems the community is experiencing at the time, the team will be addressing those problems,” Capt. Martin told the News-Press Thursday.
He said he hopes to see growth of the team, particularly more officers, in the future — but that is reliant on the city of Lompoc’s budget. He added that violent crime, such as shootings and gang violence, is up, so that will be the Special Investigations Unit’s top priority.
“When we get this problem under control, they will no longer just be focused on gangs, and they will maybe do narcotics or human trafficking, anything that the community is experiencing,” Capt. Martin said. “We wanted to provide the community with an investigations unit that wasn’t just going to work on one thing and one thing alone. It will be multifaceted.
“Our budget is what it is, so we have to kind of think outside the box and make sure we are addressing the problems the best way we can. And this is the route we’re going.”
Identities and photos are not being publicized at this time, according to the department administration.
The new unit is proof that there are enough staff members to remove three officers from patrol duties, Capt. Martin said. With the struggles of a smaller budget, certain positions such as the homeless liaison officer, sergeant positions and motor officers were re-assigned to patrol to respond to the increase in 9-1-1 calls.
“My goal is to have not only our homeless (issues) officer back out in Lompoc, but also a motor officer back out in Lompoc being proactive,” the captain said, adding that he currently has two officers in training who will be transitioned to those two positions when they graduate.
Once violent crime is addressed, he said the department will then shift focus to the issues many other communities experience — alcohol abuse, traffic-related issues, mental health issues and more.
Taking on Lompoc’s top safety priorities, one at a time, makes up the sole purpose of the Special Investigations Unit, Capt. Martin said.
“We cannot be reactive — we have to be proactive,” he said. “The success of policing the community is the relationship we have with the community and our ability to proactively fight crime. When the numbers are down to the level of only responding to 9-1-1 and radio calls, we’re not being a proactive police department to affect that change.
“That’s really an ongoing problem Lompoc has been experiencing for years in staffing and retention.”
Similar restructuring is occurring across many police departments, both in Santa Barbara County and in the state and country. Adaptive policing is becoming more and more common in order to deal with crime in communities.