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Scanner identifies Calif. gang member

Gang member arrested after portable scanner identifies him: Device allows law enforcement to check fingerprints in the field

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By Beatriz E. Valenzuela
The Daily Press

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — It’s nighttime as two sheriff’s deputies approach a group of men gathered in a park that has been closed for several hours.

When the deputies ask the men for their names, there is always the chance deputies will get false information.

Now, with portable fingerprint scanners, positively identifying someone takes only a few minutes.

For San Bernardino County sheriff’s Victorville station deputies Fernando Hernandez and Jarrod Burns, the scanner helped in the arrest of a known gang member Tuesday night.

“When people give false information, the device gives deputies a way to identify people out in the field,” said Staci Johnson, spokeswoman for the Adelanto station, which has three of the hand-held scanners.

All of the sheriff’s stations in the Victor Valley have the portable scanners, but not every deputy carries one. Deputies can request the device if they need it while out in the field, said Roxanne Walker, spokeswoman for the Hesperia station.

While on patrol in the Brentwood area around 8:30 p.m., the deputies saw a group of people gathered in Brentwood Park after the park had closed, according to authorities.

As they walked over to the group, officials said they smelled the distinct odor of marijuana.

When the group saw the deputies, they closed in together and threw what deputies later learned were baggies of marijuana ready for sale, according to Victorville station officials.

When deputies were unable to confirm one man’s identity, they used the portable scanner to positively identify him as Travis Anderson, 24, a known gang member who had a parole warrant out for his arrest, according to officials.

Anderson, along with two juveniles and four adults -- including Jordan Anderson, 19, and Brandon Bailey, Tracy Thomas and Raytwan Carraway, all 20 -- were arrested for possession of marijuana for sales. All seven were confirmed gang members.

The scanners provide law enforcement officials with a photograph of the person along with a name. This has been very helpful in identifying people who do not have identification or who officers believe may be providing false information, said Sgt. Darren Goodman with the High Desert Regional S.M.A.S.H. Gang Team.

“Sometimes they’ll take a good guess and the name they give will be in the system,” Goodman said. “But with the photo, officers can see the guy in front of them is a white guy but the guy in the photo is black.”

One drawback is that if the person has not been booked or arrested or has never been issued an identification card, as is the case with illegal immigrants, they may not be in the system, according to Goodman.

“That is when we need to do a little more work at the station to identify the person,” Goodman said.

Sometimes if deputies are in an area with poor reception, the device may not work properly.

“Like a cell phone, sometime reception is down, but overall it is a good tool to have,” said Apple Valley station Deputy Eddie Bachman, who is also on the S.M.A.S.H. Gang Team.

Copyright 2008 The Daily Press