HPD’s Anti-Crime Team an integral piece of Huntsville’s public safety landscape

single-meta-cal July 26, 2021

In the home of an elderly Huntsville woman, a group of drug dealers set up shop. They were cooking and selling crack cocaine without her consent.

An anonymous tip from a member of the community to the Huntsville Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team (ACT) ultimately helped put the dealers out of business.

With the woman’s permission, ACT officers searched and found more than 4 ounces of crack cocaine. Nine individuals were ultimately arrested on felony charges and trespassed from the home. More importantly, the elderly victim got her life and home back.

This type of community crime-fighting is just one of ACT’s purposes. Formed in late 2017, the team is comprised of uniformed officers with diverse policing backgrounds who help investigators and patrol officers prevent crime.

One of those instrumental in the formation of the team was Capt. Mike Izzo, a native New Yorker inspired by a similar unit within NYPD that requires officers to be familiar with violent offenders in the community.

“These are very proactive police officers who want to improve the quality of life in their community,” Izzo said of the officers on Huntsville’s ACT. “They love their profession and the citizens they serve. They are some of the best police officers we have.”

Sgt. Karl Kissich standing in downtown Huntsville smiling in his police uniform.

Sgt. Karl Kissich leads the Anti-Crime Team, which works to reduce street-level crime.

Community commitment

ACT is a part of HPD’s Criminal Investigations Division and works with the department’s North Alabama Multi-Agency Crime Center. When not actively helping investigators working a case, ACT officers interact with the community and build relationships with the public.

To be a part of the team, officers must be selfless and have a high level of commitment to the citizens of Huntsville. Sgt. Karl Kissich, who supervises the team, said his officers deal daily with some of the most dangerous individuals in the City.

“The officers on the team aren’t tasked with answering calls for service so they can spend their days locating fugitives and increasing the police department’s presence in various areas in the City,” he said.

One of the team’s founding members was Officer Billy Clardy III, who was killed in the line of duty in December 2019. Izzo said Clardy was integral in the team’s formation prior to becoming a STAC Agent, his role at the time of his death.

Getting results

In four years, ACT reduced street-level crime, including drug sales, car break-ins and burglaries. ACT officers have apprehended violent suspects, served warrants and worked on crime suppression efforts in areas where criminal activity has risen.

In the team’s first full year of operation, officers pulled about 100 illegal firearms off the street and made 289 felony arrests. In 2020, 368 people were apprehended.

The team’s significance has only grown with time.

In 2020, the team became an attachment of the North Alabama HIDTA Drug Task Force (NADTF). The move made sense, Kissich said, because the two groups investigate criminals who commit similar crimes. ACT focuses on low-level drug complaints while NADTF works to apprehend drug traffickers.

We want to send a message to anyone who is committing crime in our City that we are paying attention.

“Working with ACT has greatly freed up our NADTF agents to focus on those trafficking dangerous drugs on our streets,” said Lt. Jason Ramsey, NADTF commander. “ACT is always an asset to NADTF, and the two teams often work closely with each other. We are able to work as one unit to identify those breaking laws to bring them to justice.”

If an investigation yields a large quantity of drugs, as was the case with the elderly woman, ACT has direct access to NADTF agents to help process the evidence. It also allows them to work with federal agencies, including the U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The unit has progressed every year and continues to have a vital impact on violent offenders in our community,” Izzo added. “The team’s success in helping U.S. Marshals apprehend fugitives from justice is amazing to watch.”

Despite their collaboration with outside agencies, the ACT is a Huntsville team protective of the citizens it serves. For example, officers continued to visit the elderly woman whose home was overtaken by drug dealers to check on her.

“We want to send a message to anyone who is committing crime in our City that we are paying attention,” Kissich said. “We want to make sure everyone feels safe in our community and those who want to break the law know they’re not welcome here in Huntsville.”