OAKHURST – Sheriff John Anderson received a warm welcome as the featured speaker at this month’s meeting of the Mountain Democrats in Oakhurst.
When the group gathered at the Sweetwater Steakhouse for a breakfast meeting on Saturday, Mar. 2, Anderson was there to talk about the challenges facing law enforcement in Madera County.He began with a fact that surprised many – crime is down in most areas.
“Most crime rates in Madera County have gone down,” the Sheriff told the 40-plus attendees. “70 percent of our activity is in the valley, and most of the people we arrest are from Fresno. Lots of gang members come to Madera to commit their crimes.”
Anderson assured the group that, even with the advent of AB109, which requires counties to house non-sexual, non-violent and non-serious offenders instead of sending them to state prison, they have seen a decline in criminal activity in Madera County.
“I’ve been a policeman in 11 different places in California, and uncategorically, this is the safest place I have ever lived,” said Anderson. “We had just three homicides in 2012; all were down in the valley, and all were drug related. They’ve had eight so far this year in Fresno.”
Anderson also reiterated what he has been saying for a long time – “We don’t have a crime problem in Madera County, we have a drug problem.
“We have cartels growing marijuana up here in the national forests, and we now have liquid methamphetamine, packaged in bottles that look just like these high energy drinks, being smuggled across the border from Mexico, and coming in on ships.”
The Sheriff said that law enforcement has pretty much eliminated the problem of meth manufacturing in the county, having taken down 15-20 meth labs per year in the recent past, but none in 2012. But that doesn’t mean meth itself isn’t still a big problem.
“Meth destroys lives; it destroys families. A lot of times when people commit crimes, they’re doing it so they can afford to buy drugs,” said Anderson.
He also talked about the challenges presented with the passage of Proposition 215, which led to medical marijuana being legalized in California. Prop 215, approved by voters in 1996, and SB420, passed by the California Legislature in 2003, do not supersede federal law however, and marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which presents problems for local law enforcement.
“People who want to smoke pot run down and get a license from a doctor that says you can have as much as it takes to reduce pain,” said Anderson. “Well, is that 1 plant or 2,000 plants? Outside of Raymond we took about 6,000 plants on one property. That’s not for medicinal purposes. That’s the battle we’re fighting.”
Anderson also addressed questions posed on proposed gun legislation.
“Everything they’re proposing that the federal government do is already against the law in California,” said the Sheriff. “They banned assault weapons here in 1990. We’ve not been allowed to have machine guns since 1937, I think, and they’ve limited the number of rounds in a magazine. We’re not allowed to have most of the weapons the government has. I don’t know what more they can do in California. Just check the Penal Code.”
Part 6 of the California Penal Code deals with weapons, and includes Sections 16000-34370. Anderson says there are enough laws addressing every aspect of the use and ownership of guns in California, and that knee-jerk reactions to tragedies often inspire entrenched bureaucrats to try and solve these problems with more legislation.
“The legislature last year introduced 4,800 pieces of legislation,” he said. “And there are only 120 lawmakers. Do we really need that many new laws?”
Anderson notes that generally, criminals don’t buy guns legally, they are more apt to steal them or acquire them through personal sales where background checks are avoided.
The Sheriff said he is total agreement that we should do better background checks, and voiced concerns about those with mental issue having access to weapons.
“Trust me, I’m a gun guy,” said Anderson, who has carried guns every day since he was 17, in the military and on the job. “But there are a lot of people who shouldn’t have them.”
Sheriff Anderson also spoke to the group about several important programs that have been implemented in Madera County in the past year, including MCAlert, Elder Orphans and Madera County 311. Please click to learn more about these programs.
For a complete report on Madera County Sheriff’s Department’s crime statistics for 2012 click here.