May 23, 2011
- Dave Bieter
- Vern Bisterfeldt
- Tom Dale
- Tammy de Weerd
- John Evans
- David Ferdinand
- Brad Holton
- Vicki Thurber
- John Bechtel
- Scott Dowdy
- George Hyer
- Nate Mitchell
- Garret Nancolas
- Craig Telford
Staff and Guests
- Mark Alexander – Interim Chief of Police, City of Ontario
- Amanda Anderson – Malheur County, Drug Free Communities Coalition
- Joe Dominick – Mayor, City of Ontario
- Tom Elzondo – Gang Officer, Ontario Police Department
- Rafael Gonzalez – Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Aaron Lucoff – Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Dan Norris – District Attorney, Malheur County, Oregon
- Wendy Olson – U.S. Attorney, District of Idaho
- Larry Overholser – Ada County
- J uvenile Court Services
- Bob Sobba – Caldwell City Council
- Ann Wick, Gang SAUSA, Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Bill Larsen
- Conference Call Guests – U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon
Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho welcomed everyone to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This is an unusual meeting of the Treasure Valley Partnership in that they are hosting the meeting as a way of saying thanks to the Partnership for being an asset to their office. The Partnership has funded along with the State of Idaho their Gang SAUSA who is employed through Canyon County. The new SAUSA is Ann Wick for those who have not met her yet.
We were connected via video teleconference to two locations (Portland and Eugene) of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon. The Idaho and Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Offices wanted to visit with the Partnership in regards to an idea they have been working on in terms of prosecuting crimes as it occurs on both sides of the Idaho-Oregon border. Of particular concern are the folks that feel like they can escape federal prosecution by escaping to the remote areas of S.E. Oregon. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has found that their partnership with the Treasure Valley Partnership on the Gang SAUSA Program has provided an effective tool for combating gang violence in the treasure valley communities on the Idaho side of the border. They want to explore ways to make this happen on both sides of the border. In reality the Treasure Valley region has grown and does include the communities of S.E. Oregon.
Their office indicted their first ever RICO case back in March of 2011. The arrests in those cases have occurred. This would not have happened without the cooperation and assistance of the law enforcement agencies in Eastern Oregon.
Rafael Gonzales stated they are in an odd circumstance. They are the closest U.S. Attorney’s Office and do have a great working relationship with the District of Oregon. They have a great working relationship with the Partnership and now the jurisdictions in and around Ontario. They are here to do whatever they can to serve the communities of the Treasure Valley and bridge the Snake River.
Dwight Holton – U.S. Attorney, District of Oregon said he welcomed hearing from the District of Idaho. They have been worried about the growing gang problem in rural S.E. Oregon. He was thrilled to see the racketeering indictment from this spring. In his experience, the bad guys are terrified of being RICO’d up as they say. They are happy to join hands to see how they can assist in this effort.
Aaron Lucoff stated that before he became Criminal Chief he prosecuted drug and gang cases. A lot of the drug cases they had, had ties into the S.E. Oregon area. It is very difficult for the Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office, unless they can develop a conspiracy charge, to find venue to prosecute those cases. They have been working with the Malheur County Prosecutors office on folks that would they would have venue on. After a while, however, the word spread to not come to Idaho to sell drugs. He definitely wants to work on crafting something that would benefit both districts.
Rafael stated that one of the ideas they had was to have someone from the Idaho Office be sworn in as an AUSA in the District of Oregon. This person would investigate cases together with the District of Oregon with the idea that 95-96% of cases settle. We could work up the case from our end and coordinate with our partners in the District of Oregon. Then if one of these cases goes to trial, as a AUSA we would go over to Oregon and either lead or be second-chair of the trial. In this way, on the Federal level, we could establish a partnership.
Just like in the Treasure Valley where we have developed relationships with local prosecutors, we would establish a three-way partnership with Malheur County and the District of Oregon. When these issues arise, we can staff the case between the three partners to see how to best handle an isolated incident or a bigger operation. We would form a task-force on the prosecution side and presumably on the law enforcement side as well.
Dan Norris said this would really be helpful. Dwight has done a good job in providing assistance on cases. Occasionally, we get in a position where Idaho has the investigation going, and they are holding the suspect and stalling the local court because it takes a while for the FBI or DEA to adopt the case and move it along. It would really be helpful if a U.S. Attorney is on board fairly quickly and making decisions if they are going to adopt.
Rafael stated that what they have done with local prosecution partners is establish going forward, a prosecution guideline with the expectation that they are going to take these types of cases. When we make this offer, we adhere to these guidelines and will make sure they get to the case before any significant State resources are expended.
Dan stated that since Dwight has been the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, they have been a lot faster than in the past.
Rafael stated that the other people we need to get involved are the Marshals in Oregon and Idaho so the efforts can be coordinated and they as well are not making a long drive from the Portland area. At the earliest opportunity he will get together with the U.S. Marshall in Idaho and make sure they are aware of what is going on.
Dan Norris said they really should just be with the State of Idaho. Their time zone is even out of whack with the rest of Oregon. On a local level we have forged partnerships with our Idaho neighbors as we have found that drugs and gangs are common to the valley. If we can forge partnerships on the federal level it would just be great. Geographically, forging this partnership is the natural thing to do. He added that their nearest FBI agent comes from Pendleton and as a result they don’t work with them a lot.
Rafael asked Dwight what Federal offices cover the Ontario area? Where are these people located? Dwight stated that the FBI comes out of Pendleton and everybody else is either in Bend, Eugene or Portland. He does know there are no real significant close federal resources for the Ontario area.
Wendy stated at the very least, we should be able to have a discussion with the FBI, ATF, DEA and others to develop some cooperation like what we are developing here. We could work it so that our district person would work with the Oregon district person that has the assigned territory and administratively kick the cases over the Idaho district.
Joe Dominick stated that he appreciated the invitation. If we can get more bridges over that river, the better off we all are. He did not know if it was the right place to mention, but they could also use some help in convincing Portland and Salem into keeping the crime lab in Ontario. If we keep it there we could also partner with the Idaho folks on the use of the lab.
Vern requested a card as he was sure he could enlist someone in Ada County to write a letter.
Dwight asked what types of crimes are we talking about and some idea of the volume so they could target resources this direction. Rafael mentioned that there are three areas where we would find federal violations. One would be on the immigration side. They have a criminal alien program here that is fairly successful and works the local jails and prisons pretty hard. They are having a meeting with Detention and Removal officers to see what if anything they can do on the other side of the border to make sure that violent criminal aliens aren’t being paroled or released back into the community.
The second area is pure gun cases. Typically they are looking for somebody that has been prosecuted in the last seven years for a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense. Sometimes in a target rich environment and their resources are so limited, they have had to focus on people with two or more priors.
Drugs! We do have a couple long term investigations and investigators that are able to develop leads on the other side of the border. Occasionally we have a person on a stand-alone count that they can’t reach.
Dwight asked based on the discussion if Rafael was suggesting that gangs tie into all three areas. Rafael emphatically stated yes. Depending on resources, the District of Idaho has this Special Assistance Program and we are able to do a zero tolerance gang program. Whenever any one of these types of crimes is committed and there is any sort of gang presence, we can and do pull out all the stops.
Vern stated they had a little get together at the Ada County Sheriff’s Office over this first RICO case. He is sure that if we get a few more of these, it will make it just that more uncomfortable for gangs in the valley.
Wendy stated that the partnerships help them put together these complicated cases. When you look at that RICO case, every jurisdiction around the table really had a hand in putting this together. The successfulness of this emphasizes the need to form these partnerships across the border. This way we can address the entire problem on a population center basis instead of just stopping at the border.
Truancy Programs in the Treasure Valley
Rafael stated that education is the first bastion to criminal conduct or juvenile delinquency. The more education a person has the less likely a person is going to be a gang delinquent. Throughout the course of his career that has went from the inner city of Detroit to Malheur County it has been his observation that if you can keep the kids in school your going to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
Bob Sobba stated they started their program about five years ago as part of a larger grant. As part of a grant they had to have a prevention and adjudication module. They have a real good relationship with their schools. When they looked at the kids that were getting in a lot of trouble and the gang members especially, there was a common denominator among all of them. And that was a very large percentage of them never finished school.
So, with part of the grant, they worked with the schools and set up Truancy Officers located at the school. Their job was to monitor attendance to see what they could do to head things off before the youths were so far behind they gave up. They would work with parents and kids but if this was not working, they would hold an attendance hearing at a truancy court. The school would have both the parents and the child come in and talk with this court about what the problems were and try to work through whatever problem to keep the child in school. The parents and the child then would be asked to sign a contract with the school that detailed obligations regarding attendance.
They have a truancy court in both Nampa and Caldwell. They have a magistrate, clerks, interpreters and a bunch of people involved in this court.
Schools get paid by average daily attendance. Since they started this, attendance has risen from 88% to around 95%. The increase in income the school has received in essence pays for the program.
For children involved with the program, they have also started a career day where they take the students to the College of Western Idaho and Treasure Valley Community College. The program has people come talk to the students about tests and requirements for going to college.
They are also just starting a mentoring program where they assign kids a mentor to help them stay in school. The YMCA has given half-cost passes where kids can meet their mentors at the YMCA.
Things they would like to see, or a wish list if you will, include (1) having a part-time probation officer (2) they would like to be able to keep the mentoring program. This program has a little bit of funding for the next year or so. (3) Juvenile Probation would like to be able to start teaching a class to provide some basic skills.
Larry Overholser is a Special Programs Coordinator for Ada County Juvenile Court. He coordinates a program called Attendance Court which started in 2000. This program got started as a concern resulting from a survey of their juvenile detention center. Eighty percent of the attendees of the juvenile detention center had chronic attendance problems.
This Attendance Court embodies some of the principles he has developed over a career in social services. The primary principle is prevention. If we can prevent a problem from happening we are more effective at stopping it and we can do it cheaper. The other principle he believes in is early intervention. If we are going to intervene in a family, we feel like we need to do it as early as possible.
Their attendance court was designed around intervening in families for kids at the elementary school level. Specifically, their program starts at grade one and goes to grade 6. It runs solely with volunteers. They have volunteer attorneys, judges and others that make the program work.
They hold the parents accountable for getting children to school. They want to intervene on the juvenile delinquency cycle. They believe this starts primarily with a child missing school. As soon as you start missing school, you get behind. Once you get behind you can’t get caught up and this affects your view of school, your self esteem and your place in the school.
They summons the whole family in front of the juvenile court. They use a positive rewards approach. If kids are successful they are given an incentive packet. This packet is filled with free tickets to activities like ice skating, discovery center, birds of pray, etc.
They build a plan with the family and this plan lasts for one and a half years. If the plan is not working after a year and a half, they refer the child back to the school district and encourage the school to press charges against the parents under state law 33-207.
He said he was surprised at the number of first and second graders that were responsible for getting themselves up, getting breakfast and going to school.
David said he understands there are homeless kids in Jr. High and High School. How do we handle this situation when you’re talking about getting the parents involved? He had heard that the Nampa Chamber of Commerce was collecting food, clothing etc. for 500 kids that were homeless. Tom clarified that this number counts children that are living with extended family as homeless. Tammy stated there are a lot of kids on the street.
Larry replied that he is aware of many cases where the parent(s) are living in the homeless shelter along with the kids.
Tammy said that the biggest problem is those kids that are over 16 and their parents have kicked them out of the house and they still want to go to school. The problem then becomes trying to find housing in their home school area because they usually don’t have transportation.
Larry said this is a huge gap. Here in Boise we lost the transitional living center a couple years ago and this has left a huge gap in services.
Vern said that he went into the military as a young man and even had his parents sign off on it. Is there any chance of getting these kids into the military? Larry responded that in his experience the military now won’t accept these kids. Tom added that the military entrance requirements have gone up and you absolutely have to have a high school diploma in order to get accepted.
Rafael stated he was really hoping to hear from the Guard. They have a program that targets the 16-17 year olds. Tom added that this program really works at incentivizing going to school. If the kids stay in school and graduate then they can get into the guard under this program.
Tammy cautioned that this truancy is a problem and the schools do not have an answer. In the Meridian School District they have over 500 homeless students. These students are “couch surfers” and they do need to be in their home school area. The faith community can’t get involved because you can’t have that faith component. These are difficult kids and are not easy kids to find a home for.
Larry stated they have a temporary foster home program they can use when they encounter these kids. This is a temporary (30-60 day) fix till they can find family that can accept these children.
SAUSA Program Update
Ann pointed to her report and indicated she is using the same format as was used before. She is working with Bill to identify the data needed and streamlining the reporting.
To date, the total number of indictments under the program is 166 with 127 being convicted and some that are pending sentencing. The conviction rate remains at 92%.
In the BMC Case, the level of crime and the location does not allow for breaking the numbers down by county or city. In this case, we would literally be adding multiple jurisdictions for the same defendant. In the County table, the numbers indicate the county the crime was committed in. Because the BMC Case involved multiple jurisdictions, the City table reflects the jurisdiction the defendant was living upon arrest. This is why you see folks from Umatilla Oregon and Malheur County.
Under Notable cases, the Sears and Whitaker cases are ones that she actually was responsible for. These cases involve defendants that were Aryan Knights gang members that were indicted on methamphetamine distribution.
In the Luckybill Nugent case, the defendant received a sentence of 144 months for possession and intent to distribute Methamphetamine. This was significant as the individual had 344 grams of methamphetamine upon arrest.
In the BMC case they have a total of 11 Federal RICO defendants and two what are called stand alones. In addition, Canyon County charged 19 members of the BMC gang in State Court. The word is this is the first RICO case and the largest gang prosecution in Idaho.
Ann stated that this program is very impressive and she is thrilled to be a part of this effort.
Wendy Olsen stated that upon becoming the U.S. Attorney for Idaho, she quickly became aware of how significant of a program this SAUSA program is. One of the things she tries to do when ever she gets an opportunity to speak to different audiences is talk about this innovative program. She makes sure she is consistent in mentioning the Partnership and the role the Partnership has played in developing and maintaining this SAUSA Program.
Aaron Lucoff stated that it is Ann’s role to support the Metro Crimes Task Force. This is a conglomeration of federal and local law enforcement agencies. This partnership between the Metro, the Treasure Valley Partnership and the Gang SAUSA position is nationally recognized. The FBI uses this task force and partnership as the role model for similar sized cities in the U.S.
Tammy stated that the Treasure Valley Partnership continues to get overwhelming support from our City Councils and County Commissioners because of this program. She wants Ann to know that everyone is on board and is fully supportive of this Program.
Tom indicated that he and Bill had talked to the State Criminal Justice Commission every year on this program. We feel that this program really should be funded fully by the State. The State has absolutely no doubt that this program is saving significant tax dollars. We will continue to work on this with them and the program has a great deal of support from Director Reinke.
Dave wondered what is happening with the crime rates. Tom stated that drive-by shootings have dropped from over 78 to one in just over a couple years. Dave continued that he would like the partnership to look into how we might collectively develop reports on what crimes are being committed in the valley. Bill stated he would begin the process of developing some sort of report that might be able to show trends. He cautioned that in his experience, each jurisdictions reporting is different and it will take some time to ferret out the nuances to ensure numbers being reported are “apples to apples”.
Ann cautioned that in merging crime reports from different jurisdictions may not reflect any of the numbers in this SAUSA report. How a local jurisdiction may tally a crime involving one of these SAUSA cases would depend on if the jurisdiction was involved in the case or not.
Executive Director’s Report
Bill indicated that Tom Dale, John Bechtel and he are scheduled to meet with the Owyhee County Commission on June 6. Bill stated that in discussions with the Clerk, there appears to be confusion about the Partnership. The big problem is we meet on Monday’s and this is the time they hold their Commission meetings.
Bill thanked all the individuals from Oregon that were in attendance at the meeting. Joe Dominick thanked Bill for the invite and said it is real nice to see how the Partnership has been involved with this gang problem. He knows that the Ontario Police Department worked hard on the BMC case and it is nice to see it all tied together.
Tom stated that the Partnership is not just a crime related organization. We get together to talk about all kinds of issues that are common to all of our communities. He would like Joe to see his way clear to have Ontario to be part of this group. Vern stated this is a good place to ask for help and work together to solve problems.
Vern moved to approve the minutes and financial report. Brad seconded. Motion approved.