North Tahoe detectives team fully assembled after summer overhaul | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe detectives team fully assembled after summer overhaul

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun
Kyle Magin/Sierra SunPlacer County Sheriff's Office Detective Sage Bourassa is a member of the 5-person North Shore investigations team.
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TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; You might not know the North Shore detectives, but you probably know their work.

Drug busts and burglary arrests have highlighted the tenure of the new Placer County Sheriff’s Office investigations team the past few months, garnering headlines and arrests.

All beside one, Detective Sage Bourassa, are new to a unit that found itself this past summer searching for an identity in North Lake Tahoe after many former investigators moved on.

and#8220;Between promotions and transfers, our old team pretty much disappeared earlier this year,and#8221; said Sgt. John Giovannini, who leads the detectives. and#8220;So in August we started rebuilding.and#8221;

Giovannini, a former patroller in the Tahoe area, signed on as the team’s commander, and detectives Rick Wroobel, John Lasagna and Brian Carmazzi joined to complete the unit.

The detectives have experience in Tahoe as former patrollers, and all represent a different skill set and investigations forte.

Bourassa, an officer with the county’s search and rescue and mounted units, handles crimes against people; Wroobel, a member of the PCSO’s dive team, handles burglaries; Carmazzi is a bomb technician in addition to handling cyber crimes including identity theft; and Lasagna works on the county’s equivalent of a SWAT team and works crimes versus property.

Wroobel is on a tour of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq and returns in April.

Lasagna, a 10-year patroller who switched to investigations this year, said becoming a detective was an extension of the work he did on PCSO’s day shift.

and#8220;Basically, after I worked day shift where you’d get a lot of calls for reports, I found out I had a good time investigating while out on patrol,and#8221; Lasagna said.

Giovannini oversees the team and deals with a bit of everything. The philosophy of investigations is teamwork, though, he said, and partnering the skills of each investigator.

and#8220;In our general day, we’ll work our standard cases, but if something big comes up, we’ll jump on it as a team,and#8221; Giovannini said. and#8220;Everybody will put their stuff aside and work together.and#8221;

Bourassa said the day in a life of a detective varies from pouring over reports to hopping on an ATV and exploring a backcountry crime scene.

and#8220;For us it seems like everything comes in waves and#8212; sometimes I won’t have sex crimes against children for months, then I’ll get four in a month,and#8221; Bourassa said. and#8220;Same thing with burglaries, they come in chains because it’s usually the same person doing them. Once we arrest them, things will be quiet for about six months, then someone else will get a bright idea.and#8221;

Such was the case of a Tahoma resident who recently was arrested on suspicion of stealing newspaper boxes and safes in the area. When the suspect was off the streets, the crimes stopped.

Lasagna generally handles the team’s burglary cases. He said the goal is to take the information provided from patrollers and#8212; evidence gathered as soon as a case is reported and#8212; and go deeper.

and#8220;We can do the things they can’t do when taking the initial report, like start looking at the stolen items and getting serial numbers, things like that,and#8221; Lasagna said. and#8220;My job is to take what they’ve done further, to look for patterns and put that together with probably suspects. We’ll check out people on parole or probation and try to find a common thread to piece things together.and#8221;

Teamwork isn’t only important inside the investigations unit, but also with partnering law enforcement agencies, Bourassa said.

and#8220;Networking is huge for us,and#8221; Bourassa said. and#8220;I have people I can call up all the time to run information for me in Reno, Washoe (and) Nevada County. It’s all about getting those connections to share information.and#8221;

Introducing her counterparts to those sources is the most important part of bringing them into investigations, Bourassa said.

and#8220;These guys know Tahoe and#8212; it’s basically just showing them how the system works and getting them those connections,and#8221; Bourassa said.

Some of those law enforcement connections paid off on Nov. 6, when Placer’s investigations team followed a man suspected of Tahoe-area robberies to Reno, where he was arrested by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

Bourassa said making community connections helps as well, pointing to a recent case where loggers spotted evidence in the forest outside of Tahoe and knew to call detectives right away, leading to a crucial discovery in a case.

Giovannini said he’s confident in the team’s abilities, saying each member was selected from a field of candidates for his or her particular skill set.

Bourassa, who briefly worked the investigations desk by herself this summer as the new group was assembled, said just having a team is a positive change.

and#8220;I’m just thrilled, it’s nice to have a group of people who are energetic and always willing to learn, we’re learning new stuff every day,and#8221; Bourassa said.

To contact the Tahoe City substation of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and#8212; located at 2501 N. Lake Blvd. and#8212; call (530) 581-6300.