CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's elite units is about to reach a major milestone -- their 1500th arrest.
For the first time the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, known as VCAT, allowed cameras to follow them as they chase the city's worst criminals.
They start their day just as the sun comes up with bulletproof vests, earpieces and guns in place.
We did some background investigating and now we re going to try to get our hands on him, says Cpt. Steve Winterhalter as he climbs into the car.
The officers are the best of the best. They have to be because they go after the worst of the worst.
The first target of the day is repeat rape suspect Darryl Ervin.
He's wanted for rape so we are going to an address for his baby's mama, Winterhalter says.
Most of the people VCAT goes after currently have violent criminal warrants outstanding or a violent history, he explains. Last year we made 367 arrests of rape, robbery, homicide suspects.
We re headed to a three story project building, Winterhalter says during the ride along.
Specifically, that building is west Charlotte's Little Rock Apartments, VCAT knows them well.
It s going to be a little bit trickier to sneak in there and get into position, Winterhalter says. We even know where the closets are, and all of that helps in our favor in terms of doing it quickly and doing it safely.
We edge along the building.
There are officers who will knock on the door, others to cover the back, front and windows. Another unseen team is still keeping an eye on things -- somewhere.
But apartment is empty.
This is one of those where it may be difficult to find him right away, Winterhalter admits.
At the same time, another team has unexpectedly spotted another suspect s car parked at a house off Tuckaseegee. A handful of officers talk to the people inside, while the officers stationed at the back realize there is a crawl space and quickly move to clear it.
A quick chat with the women inside and it's time to move on once again, no suspect.
But disappointment is short lived.
A separate team went looking for armed robbery suspect Andrew Duarte and found him asleep in an upstairs bedroom.
Moments later the team we re following decides to try another possible location for rape suspect Darryl Ervin. He supposedly works at the men s shelter near uptown.
Fortunately we did the work up, the background was done, we knew several places he might be, Winterhalter says. So once we open the can and put the ball in motion we were able to put it to bed pretty quick.
Ervin didn't put up a fight and is taken uptown for questioning. The team has made two arrests -- it's not even 9 a.m.
It s excellent, Winterhalter says. It's a good start to the day. We try to move pretty quickly.
They tend to move fastest on murder suspects and are often called to work in the middle of the night to track them.
If it s something we can move immediately on, well come back in and work it, depending on how big a priority is and well work it for as long as we run out of leads or run out of gas, Winterhalter says.
They average 44 hours on homicides. They have caught every Charlotte fugitive wanted for murder from the last two years.
Each time is different, Winterhalter admits. Each one poses a new challenge.
It s barely 10 a.m. and the team decides to go after a third suspect -- robbery suspect Darren Hall.
They believe he s hiding out at a motel.
We ve got undercovers moving to that room now, Winterhalter says. It s such a big structure we have to deal with multiple exits, staircases, multiple floors.
But they find him in his room and he surrenders peacefully.
We learn something from each encounter to use next time to do it safer and better, Winterhalter says.
Because they truly never know, what's around the next corner.