Whether it’s a shooting, sexual assault, homicide, robbery or any other type of crime, if a suspect needs to be found, there’s a good chance Anaheim Police Department’s Crime Task Force will jump on the case.
“There’s never a shortage of work,” said the Crime Task Force’s Sgt. Mike Haggerty.
Assembled in 1983 with two sergeants and 10 investigators, the CTF’s original focus was in property crimes. The unit had an apartment in the city with undercover investigators working to source the origins of stolen property. Eventually, the unit evolved into a fugitive apprehension team for the entire agency.
“We basically track down Anaheim’s wanted suspects and do a lot of legwork in the field,” said Haggerty, who was an investigator with the unit from 2001 through 2004 before promoting and then returning as a supervisor in 2011.
“It’s one of the best [jobs]in the department,” he said.
Every week, Haggerty and his team of five investigators meet to discuss the previous week’s cases and new ones for the coming week. Priority surveillances and arrests are set based on the severity of the crime, and the team goes where it needs to – even leaving the state if necessary for apprehension.
“We have chased robbery and homicide suspects to several surrounding states,” he said. “We roll everywhere.”
Team members also are cross-sworn as U.S. marshals. They maintain their law enforcement powers outside the state, unlike most local officers.
On a recent Tuesday, the team was working a case involving a gang-related shooting with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. A case like this gets priority with the team because of the potential danger of having that type of weapon out on the streets and in use. On that same day, the team also was working on a homicide case.
Surveillance is a big part of the job. The officers have to be able to blend into the community to be successful at following suspects without being noticed, Haggerty said, adding that his investigators span various looks and ages that allow them to fit into the majority of places the APD team goes.
And, of course, there’s the waiting – as long as it takes to find a suspect. But despite the long hours in the car, once the team has a case, it generally locates suspects within a few days. Some cases are harder than others, but the end result usually is the same, Haggerty said.
For example, in the 1998 cold case of the death of correctional officer Elizabeth Begaren, the agency reopened the case a few years back because of new evidence. The husband was suspected and the team tracked and apprehended him in two weeks. He’s now in prison.
“We get all those cases,” Haggerty said.
The team also was involved in the arrests of Steven Dean Gordon and Frank Cano for the then-suspected kidnapping and killing of four women. Gordon is on Death Row for the murders and Cano is awaiting trial.
The team tracked the two men for two weeks.
“It was 24/7 surveillance,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty said over the past five years, the city has averaged 13 homicides a year and it’s currently at six for 2017. In 2016, the team made 247 total arrests, including 10 homicide suspect arrests, four arrests for attempted homicide and 33 assault arrests. The team has a better-than-80-percent success rate for suspect apprehension.
In finding investigators for the team, Haggerty looks for the “go-to guy” in other details like gangs, vice or patrol. He needs investigators with a strong work ethic, experience and someone who works well as part of a team.
“It’s a fun job,” Haggerty said. “I have no intention of leaving.”