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Local sweep ends in arrests

Countywide operation seeks to make area safe for the holiday season

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Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:04 am, Fri Dec 14, 2012.

The first round of an ambitious sweep that included Lodi police officers netted 34 arrests, 22 guns and about five pounds of marijuana this week.

The operation included 10 teams spending an entire shift on Wednesday searching more than 100 locations in San Joaquin County.

The goal of the operation was to get crime off of the streets for the holiday season. Teams from several law enforcement agencies in San Joaquin County were assigned a list of specific targets. This list included people on parole or probation, gang members and known violent offenders. At most locations, the homes were searched while the individual was handcuffed outside. Some were arrested, but most were released after the search came up clean.

Sgt. Sierra Brucia of the Lodi Police Department took the lead for Team 1, a group assigned to several locations in northern San Joaquin County. It included two officers from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, one probation officer, and five officers from the Lodi Police Department.

Officer Sean Blandford of the Lodi Police Department drove a nondescript SUV along North Pleasant Avenue near the Lodi Public Library, with Brucia in the front seat. They drove down Pleasant Avenue in the alley behind the house, where they found two men on bicycles talking quietly, their heads close together.

"Want to go check them out?" asked Brucia.

"Why not? We're here," said Blandford.

Blandford turned the SUV around and stopped it in front of one man, who attempted to ride away on his bike.

"Hey, stop. Did you think we were cutting you off for no reason?" said Brucia as he hopped out of the car. Blandford sped back into the alley to detain the other man and search him.

They arrested Mark Walker, 40, on felony charges of possession of controlled narcotics for the eight Vicodin they said he had in his pocket with no prescription.

The team of eight officers then searched the home, since it was on their list and they were already stopped at the location, but no arrests were made at the time.

The next location was at an apartment complex off of Church Street. Six officers went to knock on the door while two others hopped the fence to manage the backyard. But it was a bad address, and the subject didn't live there.

"We get these all the time," said Brucia. "These people move so often, and go to so many places, it's hard to rely on the probation or parole officer for an address."

The officers grouped up to be briefed on the next location. Joseph Vonflue was the name, and his address was listed as being in a nearby apartment complex.

Again, a few officers stayed in the parking lot and on the ground floor while the rest marched up the stairs to the front door.

Brucia let fly a series of knocks, each more insistent than the last.

"If you don't answer the door, you will be in violation of your parole," said Brucia, shouting through the door.

Vonflue opened the door and was handcuffed on the landing of the stairs while officers and a drug-sniffing dog named Max searched his apartment.

A baggy of what police suspect was crystal methamphetamine was found under the sink, and they said a small baggy of marijuana turned up in the bedside cabinet.

Vonflue was arrested on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance and taken away.

Next, the team moved out to a site in Lockeford that took a bit more planning. The home was in the middle of a pasture, with plenty of room for a person to run. The team called in a dog to run after the subject if need be.

"The dog is getting into position. If the guy runs, don't chase him unless you want to," said Chad Yourdan, an officer with the Sheriff's Office.

But that effort came to nothing. The subject wasn't yet home from his job, according to Brucia, who spoke with someone in the house.

Team 1 made it out to eight locations during the shift, and made three arrests.

On Thursday, the same teams were signed up to complete saturation operations in several high crime hotspots throughout the county. Information from those efforts was not yet available as of press time.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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