Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, Sept. 26 @ 3:29 p.m. / Crime
Sheriff Will Resurrect Citizens On Patrol Program To Address Ebb and Flow of Property Crime
The Del Norte County Sheriff plans to revamp a citizens on patrol program as part of a strategy to address the ebb and flow of property crime that, he says, has been a problem since California’s Public Safety Realignment Act took effect.
Sheriff Erik Apperson said he will outfit the new volunteer program with two surplus vehicles, radios that connect to dispatch, spotlights and the same technology his deputies use. Volunteers will take the night shift, 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., he said, and give patrol an extra set of eyes and ears. Apperson said he expects to have the new citizens on patrol program rolling by January.
“It’s in the infancy stages,” he said. “We’re trying to come up with better ideas to serve Del Norte County who don’t like criminal behavior.”
Apperson said he has noticed that when “certain repeat offenders” are in custody, the number of car thefts and property thefts decline in Del Norte.
California lawmakers passed the Public Safety Realignment Act, also known as Assembly Bill 109, in April 2011. When it took effect in October 2011, felonies that would have carried a prison sentence were assigned to county jails.
As a result, Apperson said, the Del Norte County Jail is often crowded with “higher-level” offenders. As a result, subjects booked for property crimes often get released quickly because the jail doesn’t have space to hold them, he said.
According to Apperson, AB 109 provided state dollars to counties to offset the impact. Del Norte receives about $1 million with roughly $500,000 going to the jail, he said. Funding also goes to the Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office, the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Office and the Crescent City Police Department, Apperson said.
The Del Norte County Jail has the staff to handle about 110 people, Apperson said. It can accommodate more than that, but Apperson said he doesn’t have the staff to safely supervise more than 110 inmates.
He estimated about 10 percent of the inmates at the jail are there due to AB 109.
“Holding 10-12 people versus letting them out makes a big impact,” he said. “(State government) certainly has not provided the resources to offset the impact.”
Apperson said he has discussed the issue with Chief Probation Officer Lonnie Reyman and District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen. One idea that has been broached is the use of ankle monitors on subjects booked and released from the jail until they’re arraigned, Apperson said.
On Tuesday, Hemmingsen said constituents have been complaining about a lot of low-level crime and burglaries, which prompted his meeting with the sheriff.
“We’re looking at some things that can be brought back to the board,” Hemmingsen said. “Security patrols and things like that. Hopefully we can get something in place that will work.”
Apperson said the idea of resurrecting the citizens on patrol program and turning it into something beyond a public relations tool for the sheriff’s office came out of its citizens advisory committee. He said he also has local people on board who will retrofit those cars to increase their visibility.
“Citizens On Patrol isn’t a new idea,” he said. “We’ll just dust it off and make it better.”