MADERA COUNTY – Even with the major reductions in staff and budget, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department reports that crime was down in most areas during 2012.
Several staff positions were not funded in the current budget, and therefore the department lost two sergeants, one clerical position and 12 deputy sheriffs. These were in addition to three deputy positions eliminated in a previous budget.Most employees continue to be subject to the two days per month furlough, reducing personnel resources and efficiency even more. The Sheriff’s Department has been operating with these shortages since January 2010.
“In spite of the continued reduction in resources, we have endeavored to provide the same level of service as provided in the past,” says the Sheriff’s State of the Department 2012 report issued Feb. 21.
“We have resisted proposals to switch to “on line” or telephonic reporting of minor crimes, vehicle thefts, missing person reports etc. as many other departments have done,” the report goes on to say. “It is our belief that citizens are paying for and expect police protection and the conducting of criminal investigations, rather than merely providing a reporting/documentation service.”
The Sheriff’s Department reports that crime was down in most areas. Some major challenges for the Department continue to be the theft of copper wire, ID theft and internet scams, domestic violence, and drugs. There were also two large cases of credit card skimming at local gas stations this past year, accounting for a rise in the crime of larceny.
Overall, the Department reports that Madera County still has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. And even with all the budget and personnel cuts, the Sheriff is responsible for much more than responding to 911 calls:
The elected position of Sheriff also includes the duties and responsibilities of the County Coroner.
Generally, when a person dies, other than under the direct care of a physician, the Coroner must make pronouncement of death, positively identify the deceased, make determination as the cause of death, protect the individual’s property, and notify the next of kin of the death. In addition to being Deputy Sheriff, each sworn member of the Department is a Deputy Coroner, and performs the duties above.
The Office of the Sheriff-Coroner is additionally designated as the Emergency Services Director for Madera County. Fortunately, there were no declared (or undeclared) emergencies this year. The Office of Emergency Services (OES) Coordinator established the usual cooling/warming centers as the weather dictated, and arranged for the availability of road sand, etc.
The OES Coordinator also took part in two Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training exercises, handled the day to day interaction with the Madera County Public Health Department, PG&E, US Army Corps of Engineers, American Red Cross, Cal EMA, FEMA, and other Region V Operation Area reps.
BASS LAKE OPERATION
The Bass lake Homeowners Association, Pacific Gas & Electric and the U.S. Forest Service contract with the Department to collect Environmental (use) fees for boat operations and safety patrol on the lake. In order to further reduce costs of this operation, the Department has created a new classification, Code Enforcement Deputy, to patrol the lake and enforce boating laws. The pay for this position is much less than that for a regular deputy.
The Department also utilized two extra help clerical assistants, two boats and a jet ski. These positions receive no benefits, saving even more. Boat registrations pay for the entire operation. Quite possibly, because of the economy, the number of registrations has been going down the past few years.
No persons drowned on the lake during the year.
The system for allowing for registration payments to be made on credit/debit cards has proven very successful. This year $22,976 in registration fees were paid in this manner. This is up from $7,000 which was collected last year, the first year of the operation.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) is a joint Federal/State operated drug task force that primarily combats methamphetamine manufacturing laboratories. The Sheriff’s Department has been involved for the past nine years and because of this involvement, has dismantled numerous meth labs and cleaned up several lab dumps in Madera County.
Because of the reduction of deputies, the Sheriff’s Department can no longer assign a detective full time to the HIDTA team. However, should they come across a lab, HIDTA will assist in cleaning it up.
During the year there were no meth labs discovered and no chemical dumps located within Madera County. This compares to more than a dozen of each, just a few years ago. The Sheriff’s Department reports that progress has definitely been made.
Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET)
MADNET consists of officers from the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, State Parole, California Highway Patrol, Chowchilla and Madera Police Departments, and Madera County Sheriff’s, Probation and District Attorney Departments. It is supervised by an agent from the State Department of Justice. The Department says they are lucky to have saved this position, as the State, though budget cuts, disbanded some 30 task forces. Madera County’s is one of the 18 remaining. As can be seen from the following, the unit was very active during this period.
MADNET also conducted a number of marijuana eradication efforts. The Department felt hampered by what they see as questionably “legal” medical marijuana gardens supposedly grown under the provisions of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Care Act. Unless there was a clear violation of law, or a large enough number of plants to interest federal authorities, many grows had to be left alone.
Grow Sites: 55
Plants Total: 62,086
Public Land: 25,349
Private Land: 36,737
Seized Processed Marijuana: 1,642 pounds
Cash Seized: $27,990
Most arrests were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney in federal court.
Madera Gang Enforcement Team (MADGET)
This team is made up of officers from state and local departments. and works closely with the narcotics team, as most gang members are involved with drugs. Due to state level budget cuts, the supervising agent from the California Department of Justice was removed, resulting in MADGET joining with the Madera Police Department’s effort, the Crime Reduction Unit. This unit has now taken over the gang enforcement duties within the county.
The team took part in a short enforcement effort in conjunction with other counties called “Operation Guardian Angel,” checking the status of persons required to register as sex offenders with the Sheriff’s Department. They found 143 in compliance, 18 out of compliance and not located, and two deceased. Five were arrested and six were deported by the federal government.
PUTNEY RANCH CAMP
The Sheriff’s Department continues to run the camp near North Fork, donated to the County by Judge Marsha Putney. The goal is to provide an “outdoor experience” to developmentally disabled children. This year the camp was utilized on several occasions by the Heartland children. Local schools held several day outings there, as did a number of Boy Scout troops. It has also been used by the Department for SWAT training and Search and Rescue exercises and training.
RAD KIDS PROGRAM – Resisting Aggression Defensively
The Department received a $40,000 grant from the Chukchansi Tribe to conduct an anti-violence campaign for young children in Madera County Schools. The program consists of training the children to do something or tell someone if they are being harassed, molested or bullied by anyone.
Madera County is the first jurisdiction in the Valley to begin this nationally offered program to area schools. Training of volunteers/instructors has been completed and classes have started at Rivergold School in Coarsegold.
CIVIL PROCESS & COURT ADMINISTRATION
In 2000, the State took over the operation of the Superior Courts and since that time, the Department has been assigned to provide bailiff services. Bailiff positions, although included in the Department’s budget, have been reimbursed by the State Court system on an hour for hour basis. This year the State has agreed to pay for the full position, which should result in a savings to the County.
The reduction in the number of civil papers served was due to one of the civil deputies suffering a lost time injury early in the year, and not yet returning to work, according to the report.
SEARCH & RESCUE (SAR)
This year the Department was faced with the usual dozen or so reported instances of persons hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. being overdue and reported as missing. Most were located within a few hours and returned to safety. All were eventually found.
Agriculture (AG) Crimes Task Force
As noted, property crimes against the AG community continue to be a large problem. Copper wire, gasoline, and equipment thefts occur almost daily. Currently, there are two detectives assigned full time to investigate these crimes. During the year they investigated 302 cases, arrested 23 suspects and filed complaints against another 67. They recovered stolen property valued at $118,812.
SPECIAL PROGRAMS INITIATED –
MC ALERT – During 2012, two citizen assistance programs were launched. The first, MC Alert, is simply an improvement over the Reverse 911 system that has been in use for the past ten or so years. Through an enhanced computer program, the Department are now able to contact persons with cell phones with prerecorded emergency messages, whereas before, only land-line phones could be alerted.
ELDER ORPHANS – There are often elderly persons living alone who have no close family to periodically check on their welfare. Unfortunately, when these persons pass on, their deaths often go undiscovered for days, or even weeks or months.
The Sheriff’s Department has implemented a program called “Elder Orphans,” whereby the MC Alert computer system can check on subscribers by phone twice a day. If they fail to answer when called, someone, generally the Citizens on Patrol, will make a personal check on them.
Both programs require that citizens sign up or register so that the computer can contact them. The Department has been engaging in a public information campaign, and so far, interest is high and the program has been well received.