Inside Your Sheriff's Office: Partnering with Area Law Enforcement
When a crime occurs, it can affect the whole community. Think of the person who lost their sense of security and the business that has to work harder to recover losses. Or the survivor learning to live with unseen scars and the family who grieves for a loved one. Crime can have a powerful effect on our quality of life.
That’s why the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office has created a task force to find and remove wanted criminals from the community before they have a chance to victimize again. The Major Offenders Task Force (MOTF) was developed in 2020 with grant funding to apprehend major offenders in our community.
“We target the offenders committing crimes and causing social harm; those who are victimizing people in our community,” said MOTF Deputy Andy Means. “Removing them off the street and getting them into the criminal justice system significantly reduces the chances of them creating another victim.”
MOTF focuses its efforts on major offenders with an active warrant for their arrest. That may include repeat criminals, individuals who have bonded out of jail or finished serving their sentence but are choosing to commit more crimes. It also may encompass people who have violated their parole or bond conditions or failed to register as a sex offender.
“We look at their criminal history, what crimes have they been convicted of, are any of them violent felonies? How many times did they fail to appear in court?” said MOTF Sgt. Brian Prunty. “All of that information is factored into our decision-making.”
The task force works in close partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Colorado Department of Corrections Parole, Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
"The FBI has a long history of partnering closely with the Mesa County Sheriff's Office to protect local residents from violent crime, drug trafficking, and organized criminal activity. Through our participation with the Major Offenders Task Force, we will focus federal resources and our investigative and intelligence efforts on targeting, disrupting, and bringing to justice the most violent criminals in Western Colorado," said Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider.
“When law enforcement agencies work in coordination and share resources, you maximize your ability to reduce crime—ultimately making the community safer,” said Undersheriff Todd Rowell.
MOTF collaborates with the MCSO Intelligence Unit and law enforcement partners to locate and arrest the wanted person. Each agency uses its unique resources and tools in coordination to amplify the ability to find the individual in the community. They do extensive research and utilize digital tools to predict where the person may be. Deputies look at who the person’s associates with, who they’ve been arrested with in the past, what locations they are known to frequent, and anything available that may ultimately help lead to their arrest.
“It takes a lot of people watching a lot of different locations to start narrowing down where this potentially dangerous person is. We look at which stone haven’t we overturned to find them and where we need to focus our efforts,” said Sgt. Brain Prunty. “Having the extra resources of our federal and local law enforcement partners is invaluable.”
It’s not just offenders in Mesa County, MOTF will help find and apprehend people wanted for committing crimes in other Western Slope communities who may be hiding out in Mesa County. Recently, the task force partnered with the Montrose Police Department and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office to apprehend individuals wanted in a stabbing and sexual assault on a child case. In both separate cases, the crimes were committed outside of Mesa County, but the suspects were found and arrested here.
“People tend to gravitate towards this area. We are a larger city, but people may not realize we are also a tight-knit community. Combine that with our available resources and partnerships, it’s easier to find people here,” said Deputy Means.
Through the partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service, MOTF has become a regional resource. Deputies assigned to the task force are deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service, giving them the authority to travel to other locations to apprehend a major offender and help agencies who don’t have the same resources.
“It’s important that the people who have been accused of committing serious and egregious crimes are identified and arrested before they have an opportunity to victimize someone in our community,” said Sgt. Prunty.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Mick Bunn and his partner work with the Major Offenders Task Force and law enforcement agencies all over the Western Slope. “Criminals don’t pay attention to jurisdictional boundaries. These relationships allow us to pool resources to apprehend violent fugitives wherever they may be. Not only is it more efficient but also safer for everyone involved. I know I can make one phone call and have experienced local law enforcement by my side sharing their expertise,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Mick Bunn.
Across the country, the U.S. Marshals have formed partnerships with state, local and federal agencies to target the most dangerous and violent fugitives through fugitive task forces. In 2020 alone, U.S. Marshals Task Forces apprehended more than 77,000 fugitives across the country.
“The Major Offenders Task Force is another shining example of what can be accomplished when agencies work together towards a common goal. The District of Colorado could not be more proud of the work our task force officers do on a daily basis to protect our community and improve the overall safety of the public by removing criminals from the streets,” said Marshal David Weaver, District of Colorado. “Our fugitive program would not be successful without the cooperation and hard work of our local partners.”
The collaboration extends beyond fugitive apprehension. Any information about criminal activity gleaned from the task force’s efforts is then shared with the MCSO Intelligence Unit, which uses the knowledge to help uncover others who are committing crimes in the community.
“You can arrest the person doing a theft from auto, but if you can also find the people who are buying or trading the stolen property for drugs, you take away the benefit to commit that crime,” said Lt. Matt King. “Finding and arresting those individuals can make a significant impact on reducing crime in Mesa County.”
The Intelligence unit helps MOTF find major offenders and utilizes information resources and partnerships to help solve crime. The team looks at historical and current crime data to identify crime trends and areas where crimes are most likely to occur. They also help keep other Sheriff’s Office units and law enforcement partners informed of current criminal activity and working in coordination.
“When intelligence is leading policing, deputies have a real opportunity to find and stop the criminality causing social harm in our community,” said Capt. Todd Sorenson.
MOTF and the Intelligence Unit work side by side with deputies assigned to Patrol. Not only do they respond to emergencies and answer 911 calls, but they also investigate crimes and provide key information about what’s occurring in the community.
“Patrol deputies are the lifeblood of what we do. They are the boots on the ground talking to people every day,” said Sgt. Prunty. “Their investment in our community and the extraordinary work they do daily allow us to focus on apprehending major offenders.”
MOTF is also tasked with monitoring and managing sex offenders required to register with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The agency’s Sex Offender Registration Coordinator manages the 430 offenders in unincorporated Mesa County. Each sex offender required to register must do so every year and submit to home checks at least twice a year. Those classified as Sexually Violent Predators register quarterly, with home checks at least four times a year.
Patrol deputies used to complete the home checks when time allows between responding to 911 calls. Now, MOTF is dedicated to the task.
“We have taken over sex offender management as personally being a mission of ours. We are trying to get to the point we know who these people are, and they know who we are, build relationships with them and hold them accountable,” said Deputy Means.
During the checks, deputies verify their home address and make sure they are staying in compliance. The requirements for each offender vary depending on their specific crime. So far, MOTF’s efforts to build rapport with those required to register are already making a difference.
“Many of the people I work with are afraid and combative with new people. With MOTF, it’s the same deputies every time. They know what those deputies are there for and what to expect,” said Alexis Brumbaugh, MCSO’s Sex Offender Registration Coordinator. “Our goal is for people to stay in compliance, and the consistency MOTF provides helps a great deal.”
With their efforts, the compliance rate for sex offenders is at 94% in Mesa County. If someone does fall out of compliance or has failed to register, MOTF works right away on a warrant for their arrest.
Deputies with the Major Offenders Task Force also collaborate with the community through CRIMEWATCH. MOTF posts the “wanted” person’s information and photo on the website, mobile app, and social media. Community members with information about the wanted person’s whereabouts can then share it directly with deputies actively searching for them.
Since CRIMEWATCH was launched in February, community members’ tips have led to several arrests and crimes solved.
“It not only keeps our community informed but gives an avenue to connect directly with deputies and share tips. Our community has told us they want to help, and this is an easy way to get involved,” said Sgt. Prunty.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office encourages people to follow CRIMEWATCH. Not only can community members submit tips, but also learn more about crime happening in your neighborhood, as well as ways to prevent crime and prepare for emergencies. Community members who wish to stay anonymous can submit tips and information to Mesa County Crime Stoppers.