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Officers work together on countywide warrant sweep

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

SNELLVILLE -- Seven men, a few old, a few young, a few somewhere in the middle, hover around a pickup truck in a mostly abandoned parking lot late Wednesday afternoon.

They offer explanations of their nicknames, some harmless, some slightly more pejorative. They poke fun at each other, first the young at the old, then the old at the young.

The men, members of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department and Lawrenceville Police Department, good-naturedly squabble over the "best" warrants out of a stack of many, and only half-jokingly talk about looking forward to "the good ones," meaning those who will likely put up the most fight.

These are seven of an estimated 70 total officers on this night, the second of three evenings of a countywide warrant sweep. Representatives from the Gwinnett County Police Department and all of the county's city police departments worked together to pick up as many bad guys as possible.

They're split into teams and sent out with a stack full of warrants, a goal in mind and a preparedness for danger.

"We joke around a lot, kid a lot," said Gwinnett County Deputy Matt Van Buren, the leader of this particular team. "But when you get to the warrant serving part, the joking stops. We know what we've got to do.

"Serving warrants is probably the most dangerous thing out there. They know they're going to jail so they do a lot of running."

What Van Buren and his colleagues do on sweeps like this is simple. They pick a warrant, which could be for anything from speeding to aggravated assault, and try and "hit it"-- pick up the offender.

If they're not home, the warrant has a bad address or it otherwise doesn't work out (and it often doesn't), they set it aside for later and move on to the next.

"Every now and then they're just like, 'let's get caught up,'" Van Buren said. "So we've got every agency out there just seeing how many people we can lock up. We hit as many as we can and try and catch as many people as we can."

During this week's three-day sweep, officers from around Gwinnett County made 481 warrant attempts, serving 90 warrants and making a total of 77 arrests in what they called Operation Safe Streets.

Van Buren and his crew were about on par Wednesday. In the first four hours, they "hit" seven warrants, but missed on all of them -- they did pick up an incidental drug bust while attempting to serve one warrant.

The hit-and-miss aspect is part of the job though, Van Buren said, one that's not without reward.

"The community, the public, they love it," Van Buren said. "The little kids are coming out, they're shaking our hands. So that makes you feel pretty good. The public really likes it -- the good guys, anyway."

Later in the evening Wednesday, Van Buren's 7-year-old daughter calls, and presumably asks what he's doing on the other end. His answer is upbeat and simple, and the same one any member of his team would have replied with that night: "Trying to catch bad guys."