1. What is the biggest concern on your mind when you're in the midst of making a bust?
Det. Andre (Dre) Evans: Safety first, for myself as well as my fellow members in this unit.
Det. Kyle M. Jackson Sr. #34
Essex County Prosecutors Office
ATTF #998: Safety! When taking down a car, prior to exiting our vehicles, we have to make sure that the suspect vehicle is blocked and stopped. Simultaneously, we have to make sure the suspects are complying with our verbal commands to, "show your hands" and "turn the vehicle off." We also have to be concerned with officer positions and fields of fire to prevent "cross fire" situations. This is why training is so important. Often, the general public does not realize the short time frame in which multi-tasking and multiple decisions (sometimes life threatening) have to be made.
Det. Tony Del Duca
Commander Essex/Union Auto Theft Task Force: The safety of the officers. Every job is different because each suspect can react differently during each and every block. I'm concerned with the actions of each officer to ensure tactically sound and safe actions and reactions. The task at hand is to apprehend suspects but MOST IMPORTANTLY to keep the team, all civilians and even the suspect safe.
Det. O.C. Gathright, Senior Field Supervisor: SAFETY, I don't want anybody to get hurt, including the bad guys.
Officer Anthony Trajer: My safety and the safety of the entire unit.
Officer Mike Gallaro, Field Supervisor: Tactics and safety first. They go hand in hand. If we have employed good tactics when making a block or an arrest everyone involved should stay relatively safe: The public, my fellow officers, myself and the suspect(s). Unfortunately when you are dealing with thousands of pounds of steel traveling at sometimes extreme high rates of speed, it doesn't always turn out the way we want it to and someone ends up getting hurt, albeit very rarely. Our overall track record over the years is very impressive with regards to keeping it safe out there and it is something that we are very proud of as a unit.
Det. Daniel Papa, Chatham Township Police Dept: The biggest concern is probably the suspect's hands and possibility of weapons.
Sgt. Robert Deitch, Field Supervisor, Essex/Union ATTF: The biggest concern on my mind would have to be ensuring that everyone is safe and goes home at the end of the shift.
2. What is your favorite part of working with the Auto Theft Task Force?
Andre Evans: When we box cars.
Kyle Jackson: Personally, when it comes to working in a street level environment, I prefer the proactive tactical concept. This concept allows the officers to actively seek a specified target as opposed to being reactionary and going call to call from communications.
Tony Del Duca: The large number of officers that rotate through the Unit. I have found true friends while working with the ATTF. There are no hidden agendas, no attempts for personal advancement - just the goal of apprehending the occupants of stolen motor vehicles and other related crimes. It is also extremely rewarding watching officers learn and gain experience. I enjoy receiving phone calls from officers who tell me about instances that they were kept safe because of their experience with the E/U ATTF.
O.C. Gathright: Working in the community I live in. When the people in the community see an officer who lives in the community it forms a certain bond. To hear young people say they want to become a cop so they can be on ATTF squad, lets me know ATTF is having a positive effect on the community.
Anthony Trajer: My favorite part of working for the Auto Theft Task Force has to be being part of a unit that works so well together. The way we do follows and box a stolen motor vehicle is almost like an art.
Mike Gallaro: The camaraderie with the rest of the members of the unit. And of course, catching the bad guys.
Daniel Papa: The training and experience that you get from working with officers from different jurisdictions that hold various ranks.
Robert Deitch: There really is not one favorite part but rather the culmination of several factors - the camaraderie with the other officers, the training that we all get, and the thrill of taking a suspect into custody so they cannot go out and harm to someone else.
3. How has your job with the Auto Theft Task Force changed the way you think about fighting crime?
Andre Evans: You know, I've gained lots of patience being in this unit and one thing I've learned crime is always gonna be here, so you just take it one arrest at a time. Just your presence is a deterrent so that's more than half the battle.
Kyle Jackson: In law enforcement there are basically two sides, patrol and investigations. Having started in patrol you soon realize that you are the first one to respond to a crime scene. Therefore you are responsible for the safety and security of the location of the crime. The more information patrol can obtain immediately after securing the scene, the more successful any subsequent investigation. Basically, suspect information and reports need to be sent to other investigative units. Many of the suspects we arrest are wanted for other crimes. The job is not complete with just placing the cuffs on the bad guy/gal.
Tony Del Duca: The ATTF has shown me that the job is not only about arrests. It's about relationships in the communities you work in and staying safe.
O.C. Gathright: Every incident is different, you must always be aware of your surroundings. You must evaluate each incident. A crime could be more than just a stolen car.
Anthony Trajer: It hasn't.
Mike Gallaro: Nothing surprises me anymore.
Daniel Papa: I feel I think the same way about fighting crime as I did before.
Robert Deitch: It has only driven me to be better at my job, to try and stay one step ahead of the suspects and be the best that I can be, and to do so safely.
4. What is the hardest part of the training you go through to prepare for the real-life operations on Jacked?
Andre Evans: The hardest thing for me to prepare for was the camera being on me constantly and trying my hardest not to laugh and smile every time the camera was rolling! 'Cause I'm silly like that.
Kyle Jackson: Trying not to wreck our cars on each other prior to hitting the street! Like in most applications it's difficult to replicate a real life scenario in a sterile training environment. Most of us are used to jumping out and catching the bad guy. In this unit you have to wait a second and check your area. If you don't, you may be struck by a moving vehicle. Everything we do is for safety and zero tolerance for collateral damage.
Tony Del Duca: The training has become something commonplace at this point in my career.
Det. O.C. Gathright: Staying in physical shape, and keeping a clear head while working. A bad day for some people is a paper cut. A bad day for a police officer could cost some one their life or serious injury.
Mike Gallaro: I have to really mentally prepare myself before my shift when I know that I will be partnering up and riding shotgun with Sgt. Robert Deitch. He doesn't let anyone else drive and he refuses to ride shotgun. It is hard riding in the passenger seat sometimes, but someone's got to ride with him...no one else will. Just ask Duke. The one time they rode together, I would have loved to have been a fly on the windshield to see what went on in there...I heard it was like an episode of the "Odd Couple." Actually, from what I heard I think it finally came to a head and Robbie jumped out of Duke's truck in the middle traffic on Springfield Avenue and rode in the back of the yellow pickup for the rest of the night. You can't make this stuff up.
Daniel Papa: The hardest part of the training is initially learning the streets and sectors of the cities we patrol.
Robert Deitch: The hardest part is applying our techniques to real life situations. You can train and train and train, but you need the ability to adapt what you practice to ever changing situations, and to do so on the fly without hesitation. If you cannot do that there is a greater chance for someone to get hurt, and for an arrest to go bad.
5. What factors do you look for when you making the decision to run a car's license plate number as they're passing by?
Andre Evans: Eye and body language from the operator of the vehicle along with passengers if there are any in the vehicle. Also if the door lock is damaged, if the windows are shattered you know things of that sort! Can't give you all the secrets!
Kyle Jackson: There are several things we look for but at the top of my list is physical damage to the vehicle.
Tony Del Duca: I run as many plates as I possibly can. If there are subtle hints...I'm not saying.
O.C. Gathright: Damaged door locks, broken windows, licenses plate not properly displayed, some one ignoring red lights, and/or driving at a high rate of speed.
Anthony Trajer: I take into account the visual aspects of the vehicle and type of vehicle. Some vehicles are easier to steal than others.
Mike Gallaro: If I can get close enough to read it, I'll put it in.
Daniel Papa: Usually if the driver ducks down when they pass, that's a good indication that the plate will be run.
Robert Deitch: There are a number of factors. Firstly, are the local trends in what the car thieves are stealing. One month it may be Jeeps, another month it may be Dodges or Honda products. Keeping up intelligence from surrounding communities is a must to be able to be effective in this business. Secondly, would be the tell tale signs: door locks punched out, broken windows, and the way in which the operators are driving. You need to be able to see the whole picture when you are out there.
6. If you had to describe your relationship with the other Task Force members in one word, what would it be and why?
Andre Evans: FUN - because I enjoy what I do and the supporting cast I have around me who make up the unit.
Kyle Jackson: Professional. We all come from different agencies and are responsible for each others safety while working in dangerous situations.
Tony Del Duca: Loyalty. There are many people that pass through the unit. Some of these officers have remained dedicated and still assist the Unit in any way possible even after many years of not being assigned full time. True friendships are hard to find...but I have found true friends while with this Unit.
O.C. Gathright: Trust. With the training and experience that ATTF members possess, we must trust each other.
Anthony Trajer: Trust. I want to go home at the end of the night. We all trust each other. If there is no trust bad things can happen.
Mike Gallaro: Unity. No explanation needed.
Daniel Papa: Camaraderie. All the task force members are all working for a common goal, find stolen cars and arrest suspects. Everybody watches each others back, and all are very safety conscience.
Robert Deitch: Dedicated.