Long Beach police to seek bail increases, gang-enhancement charges to address reoffending criminals

Courtesy Long Beach Police Department
In this 2014 file photo, 55 weapons are put on display after being seized as part of a five-month long investigation to remove weapons from felons police believed should not have. The LBPD will continue to track down suspects who should not own a firearm as the department addresses the challenge of reoffending criminals.

During a meeting last month between the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and the Long Beach Office of the District Attorney, authorities discussed bail deviations, gang enhancements and prohibited-possessor teams to address reoffending criminals in the city.

In August, LBPD Chief Robert Luna said the department was having a difficult time dealing with individuals who had multiple arrests and were continuing to commit crimes in the city.

He alluded to a specific case in July where a person was shot in their vehicle north of 45th Street and Atlantic Boulevard. Officers discovered the victim was previously on parole for using a firearm and was released. He was also arrested three times prior to the shooting. Luna said the man refused to tell officers who shot him, which made the investigation difficult to complete.

It was announced during that same community meeting that members of the LBPD were planning to speak with members of the Long Beach Office of the District Attorney to see what else could be done.

Robert Smith, LBPD commander of the Gang and Violent Crimes Division and deputy chief of the Investigations Bureau, told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview Tuesday morning that the meeting was overall positive, and that more meetings are going to take place moving forward.

Although this wasn’t the first time the two agencies have met, this particular meeting allowed both sides to address solutions to the challenge the chief mentioned during the meeting in August, Smith said.

One topic discussed within the police department was bail deviation–– where authorities request that an individual’s bail be higher than originally scheduled.

“Sometimes when somebody is booked, they have a normal bail schedule,” Smith said. “But in times when we have somebody that’s a flight risk our detectives are going to be requesting bail deviations to enhance bails to make sure that somebody stays in custody until they reach the courtroom, so the judge can make a decision on that.”

Smith added that detectives will also be seeking gang-enhancement charges when arresting a felon in possession of a firearm.

“Oftentimes, at least some of the cases I’m reviewing are eligible for gang enhancements,” he said. “So, [we’re] making sure that we charge gang enhancements when that’s appropriate.”

These enhanced charges are outlined in Penal Code 186.22, which states that it is a crime to actively participate in a gang with knowledge that its members engage, or are engaged, in a pattern of criminal activity, and the suspect willfully promotes, furthers or assists felonious conduct, according to findlaw.com.

Another tool LBPD officials are seeking to use against criminal reoffenders is going after suspects who have firearms but are not supposed to.

In 2014, a five-month operation, Prohibited Possessor Operation, spearheaded by LBPD detectives resulted in 55 weapons confiscated and 30 arrests. Since then, the prohibited-possessor team has been working throughout the years to continue to crack down on weapon-carrying suspects. Smith said that this team of detectives will continue to be a major component to address the city’s ongoing challenge of criminal reoffenders.

“We have a dedicated group of detectives and a supervisor coming on board in the first part of November,” Smith said, “and their mission is to impact weapons violations [for] both repeat offenders and gang members–– about really honing in on those folks in the community that are not supposed to possess firearms.”

Details of the specific reoffending cases the LBPD and the DA discussed during the meeting could not be revealed because of Civil Rights laws, but Smith did shed some light on the types of charges involved in those cases.

“One individual–– 11 arrests since 2011. Another one that was a victim of violence had four arrests since 2013,” Smith said. “One has an arrest history involving DUI, violating court orders, disorderly conduct, weapons charges, narcotics charges, petty thefts, sexual assaults, threat cases and then we end up having them caught on a weapons violation.”

He also claimed that some state legislation that has been put in place has resulted in some criminal reoffenders being released.

“One would argue that some of these folks shouldn’t be back out on the streets, but that’s where we are,” Smith said. “We’re optimistic about looking for any path forward with the district attorney, with other partners, to improve the situation.”

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Sebastian Echeverry, Managing Editor

The first-born child of Colombian immigrants, Sebastian Echeverry has been working as a professional journalist in SoCal for the past four years. His byline...