‘Violence Suppression Unit’: Chico Police Department’s response to an increase in violent crime


Joel Moret

The Violence Suppression Unit will target crimes such as homicide, felony assault and robbery. Photo Credit: Joel Moret on Sept 26

In response to a community increase in crime since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chico Police Department has created a new task force: the Violence Suppression Unit. The new unit began work on Sept 17. 

“For a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 Pandemic, there has been an increase in Part 1 crimes, to include violent crime,” said Chief of Police Matt Madden, in a press release. 

Violent crime refers to crimes like homicide, felony assault and robbery, which the new unit aims to address. 

Madden didn’t expand further on how COVID-19 has caused an increase. However, in an interview with The Orion, Investigations Commander Greg Keeney clarified the connection. 

“The increase in violent crimes has been centered around some of our people that have been on supervised release or early release from prison” Keeney said. “The reasons why it would be attributable to COVID-19 is because there was a mass release of prisons.” 

Keeney emphasized that the link between COVID-19 and the increase in violent crime is not direct and not related to people staying home, businesses closing or other measures that have been implemented since January. 

Much of the team’s focus will be on street-level violence as well as crimes committed by career criminals, individuals on supervised release and gangs. 

The Violence Suppression Unit is largely a rebranding of the former Gang Violence Unit, with an addition of two officers from the C-Team. 

The C-Team is usually focused on patrolling the area surrounding Chico State’s campus and the areas south of campus, which has a high student population. 

But with a lowered student population this semester, Chico Police felt comfortable reassigning the team to the Violence Suppression Unit, or to other patrol teams. 

While some officers have been reassigned, there will still be patrols assigned to the downtown and south campus areas. Chico Police indicated that the regular patrol beat structure will be sufficient while the student population remains low.

Keeny also indicated that these crimes have not been localized to Chico’s downtown community, or in areas with high student populations. Rather, the increase in violent crime has been spread throughout the city. 

In efforts to combine forces to combat the increase in violent crime, the University Police Department will be communicating any relevant information to the Chico Police Department.

“If we come across a situation that obviously may tie into either a case their working or vice versa, we want to make sure that we share appropriate, helpful information that ultimately leads to either violence suppression or the closing of cases,” said University Police Chief Matt Dillon. 

Dillon indicated that University Police had not seen a statistical increase in violent crime specifically, but reaffirmed this was not indicative of the city, which has seen a rise.

Dillon went on to say that the working relationship of Chico Police Department and University Police is still developing, as he is still settling into his role as Chief, having been appointed about a month ago. 

Joel Moret can be reached at [email protected] or @JoelMTheOrion on Twitter.