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#abq4ward: BCSO's Ghost Unit aims to keep at-risk teens on the right path

Erica Zucco
September 11, 2017 10:24 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Repeat offenders start a life of crime somewhere. For some people, it's during their teen years. A new law enforcement unit aims to end that cycle and to prevent kids from becoming criminals.

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A KOB news crew rode shotgun with Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office's newly developed Ghost Unit, in which deputies try to stop teens who could turn toward crime. The unit uses detective work and technology to track down students who've ditched class and people who've gone missing.

The goal is not to get them in trouble, but to show them someone cares. It's named the Ghost Unit for the people who others may not see right away, but who are there nonetheless. 

The unit looks for teens like Adriana Enriquez's daughter. Enriquez said she was skipping school and falling in with the wrong crowd when a Ghost Unit deputy stepped in.

"When you pray, you don't know what you're praying for," Enriquez said. "But God knows what you need. And he sent us Deputy Roybal for sure … because he sent him, I couldn't tell you, at the perfect time."

When that deputy met Enriquez's daughter, he talked with her honestly about his teen years and what got him on his current path. For then-13-year-old Lizeth Marquez, it stuck.

"It wasn't just as simple as, 'You need to start listening to your mom' and then (the deputy would) leave," Marquez said. "It was like there was actually a conversation, and he kept going back and back and back, and that relationship just built."

The deputy kept up with Marquez, challenging her to attend class daily and on time, then helping her improve relationships with her family and friends who'd keep her on the right track.

"I think he's just planted a big seed of hope in her heart," Enriquez said.

The Children Youth and Families Department says policies that give kids hope, not punishment, do make a difference. After years of implementing them, state data shows fewer teens are getting locked up.

Deputies hope this new approach on their end will help, and they say you can be a part of the change.

"The community has to keep an open mind and not be so quick to judge some neighborhood teenager with issues going on, and realize there's probably something else underlying why that kid's behaving that way," said Kyle Hartsock, a deputy in the Ghost Unit.

The Ghost Unit says their work isn't just about keeping teens from committing crimes. Deputies say teens who miss school or run away often become victims of sex trafficking or drug rings. They want to prevent that trauma, too.

Six months in, BCSO is training deputies on Ghost techniques department-wide. They're adding a third specialized detective to their team. They're also looking for more ways to make a difference in the neighborhood.

Credits

Erica Zucco

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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