BRADENTON - The gangs in the region have another "gang" to contend with, specifically the Bradenton Police Department's Gang Unit.
It received a top honor recently at the Florida Gang Investigators Conference in Orlando. The unit was named 2009 Gang Unit of the Year by the Tampa Bay Area Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, according to a press release from city public information officer Tim McCann.
The task force selected the city's Gang Unit from the 49 law enforcement agencies that comprise its multi-agency gang task force. Officers Lixa Arostegui and Ben Pieper, the primary investigators of the city's unit, accepted the award
Doug Bieniek, a major crimes investigator for the State Attorney's Office, said the BPD's Gang Unit is an integral part of the task force because it responds to callouts and has hosting several successful callouts in Bradenton.
Bienieck also commended Bradenton's Fire Department and Code Enforcement, which also participated in the callouts.
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski described a "callout" as a request for assistance from a law enforcement agency in the Tampa Bay region when gang activity may be involved. Incidents requiring a callout can range from a gang-related shooting to a request for additional officers at a county-wide fair.
"I've been in this business a long time and even I'm impressed with those two because of the amount of information they know about each and every gang member and their families, what they drive, their habits, where they hang out," Radzilowski said of Arostegui and Pieper.
In addition to Arostegui and Pieper, the gang unit has a sergeant and six other officers prepared to help Arostegui and Pieper if the need arises.
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