Outgoing Sheriff John Anderson has released his final Madera County Sheriff’s Office State of the Department Report, outlining the challenges and successes of the Sheriff’s Office in 2013:
All in all, 2013 was once again a pretty good year for the Sheriff’s Department. We experienced no natural disasters, spiraling crime, or other major incidents. Actually, reported crime was down in most categories.
Unfortunately the Chukchansi Tribe was unable to settle their leadership dispute, and this consumed a large amount of our resources, but we were able to deter the violence which we experienced last year.
We had no serious injuries to Departmental personnel, and we were able to reinstitute a Lieutenant’s position which had been cut in a previous budget.
We do however continue to experience personnel shortages in both the Deputy Sheriff and Communications classifications. These are partly due to the rigid requirements for hiring established by the State. Also, in our current budget, two Sergeants, one clerical and twelve Deputy Sheriff positions were not funded and were thus eliminated. These eliminations were in addition to three deputy positions that were eliminated in last year’s budget.
Our Communications Supervisor retired and our clerical supervisor transferred to another department. The clerical supervisor position was eliminated and for purposes of salary savings, and the Communications Supervisor position was left unfilled. We are in the process of transferring the communications supervisor position to the clerical unit as we find that it is needed there.
We lost two other key personnel due to retirement during the period. Undersheriff Frank Benard retired as did Detective Sergeant Dirk Kinkle. Both had served the Department for more than 30 years.
Throughout most of the year many of our employees continued to be subjected to the two days per month furlough, reducing our personnel resources and efficiency even more. We have operated with these shortages since January 2010.
SAFETY & SERVICE
In spite of the continued reduction in resources, we have endeavored to provide the same level of service as provided in the past. 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.
It is our belief that citizens are paying for, expect and deserve police protection and the conducting of criminal investigations, rather than merely providing a reporting/documentation service.
In spite of the great fear of “realignment” brought about by proposition 109, the feared spike in crime has not occurred, at least not in our jurisdiction. Statistically the crime rate has not varied much in the past 5 years.
The theft of copper wire continues to be a large problem in the farming community. Our AG Crimes Unit made several good arrests that are awaiting prosecution.
ID theft, internet scams and domestic violence continue to be a problem. Unfortunately most of the inter-net crimes are “off shore” and even the FBI cannot investigate nor prosecute them.
The PART ONE (major crimes that are required to be reported to the FBI) CRIMES showed a reduction in all categories except criminal homicide. The increase in homicides was primarily caused by gang and drug activity. Of the eight homicides, six were drive-by or gang related shootings, and of the eight, seven were cleared by arrest!
In short, it can be said, CRIME IS DOWN IN MADERA COUNTY! We still maintain one of the lowest crime rates in the State.
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 a determination as to the cause and manner of death, protect the individual’s property, and notify the next of kin of the death. In addition to being a Deputy Sheriff, each sworn member of the Department is a Deputy Coroner, and performs the above duties.
Coroner Cases 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
465 461 500 452 453 456
In order to make better use of our personnel resources, we have been utilizing a non-sworn person (Community Service Officer) as our Chief Deputy Coroner, so that the uniformed patrol operation will not be further depleted. One of our goals this year was to make the position permanently non-sworn and we are close to doing so. It was included in the 2013/14 budget, and a position description has been developed. Now all that is required is approval by the Civil Service Commission.
The Office of Sheriff-Coroner is additionally designated as the Emergency Services Director for Madera County. Fortunately we had no declared (or undeclared) emergencies this year. The OES coordinator took care of establishing the usual cooling/warming centers as the weather dictated, plus the arranging for and announcing the availability of road sand, etc.
We also took part in several Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training exercises and CERT Train-the-Trainer & Manager courses.
The required 5 year update of the County Emergency Plan was accomplished.
Interaction with the Madera County Public Health and Road Departments, PG&E, US Army Corps of Engineers, American Red Cross, Cal EMA, FEEMA, and other Region V Operational Area reps, was continued. This consisted of tabletop exercises, various workshops, seminars and updated training.
BASS LAKE OPERATION
The Bass Lake Homeowners Association, Pacific Gas & Electric and the US 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, we 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. As expected, the change was a good one with no reduction in safety or service to the lake users. They operate 2 patrol boats and a jet ski.
We also utilize 2 extra help clerical assistants. These positions receive no benefits, saving even more. Vessel registrations pay for the entire operation. Quite possibly, because of the economy, or the Lake level, the number of registrations have been going down the past few years. This year, however, did show an increase of 67 vessels registered.
Again, there were no serious vessel accidents, and no persons drowned on the lake during the year.
The system for allowing for registration payments to be made on credit/debit cards was in its third year and has proven very successful. $24,099 in registration fees were paid in this manner.
High Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA)
This is a joint Federal/State operated drug task force that primarily combats methamphetamine manufacturing laboratories. We have been involved with it for the past nine years and because of this involvement, we have dismantled numerous meth labs and cleaned up several lab dumps in Madera County.
Because of the reduction of deputies, we no longer assign a detective full time to the HIDTA team. However we do attend the quarterly HIDTA meetings, which enables us to keep current with the methamphetamine problem in our county and the central valley. Additionally, should we come across a lab, HIDTA assists us in cleaning it up. For the second consecutive 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. Progress has been made!
Madera Narcotics Enforcement Team (MADNET)
MADNET consists of officers from the California Highway Patrol, Chowchilla and Madera Police Departments, and Madera County Sheriffs, Probation and District Attorney Departments. It is supervised by an agent from the California Department of Justice.
During the year, the State continued its cutbacks in the anti-narcotics programs. It eliminated the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, placing some of it’s agents in what is now called the Bureau of Investigation, and laying off the rest. We were fortunate in re-hiring three of these. The cutting of drug task forces continued, reducing the number of local teams statewide from 55 to 12. Madera County is fortunate to have one of the few remaining drug task forces. This is no doubt due to the positive efforts and results obtained by MADNET.
MADNET also conducted 59 large scale marijuana eradication efforts. They were somewhat hampered by the LEGAL ? medical marijuana gardens supposedly grown under the provisions of proposition 215, the Compassionate Care Act.
Efforts in combating these grows were greatly improved by an enacted County Ordinance, which prohibits marijuana grows from being in a space exceeding 120 square feet, even if for supposed medical reasons. Most grows exceeded this by a large amount. One, consisted of 17 thousand plants being grown on 30 acres of farmland.
The Drug Cartels were active in the mountains, with the clearly illegal gardens being grown on Federal lands. Some 20 thousand plants were harvested by MADNET assisted by the Regional SWAT team and Sheriff’s personnel. Additionally approximately 2,000 pounds of garbage and 10 miles of plastic pipe were removed from our forests.
More than a dozen arrests were made and most were prosecuted by the US Attorney in Federal Court.
In 2000, the State took over the operation of the Superior Courts, and since that time the Department has had to provide Bailiff services. These positions, although included in the Department’s budget, have been reimbursed by the State Court System on an hour for hour basis. Last year the State agreed to pay for the full position, this resulted in a substantial savings to the County. Because of the construction of the new court house, two additional Bailiff positions were included in the 13/14 budget. Once filled, they will be paid for by State Court monies, rather than from the General Fund.
We are very fortunate in having an extremely well trained and efficient civil operation. The supervising deputy, is recognized as one the leading experts in the state, and has developed a curriculum and provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout California.
The number of civil papers served has increased somewhat this year. This too resulted in our including another civil deputy position in the 13/14 budget. The entire Civil Unit is paid for by the monies they collect, so again there is not an addition to the Department’s use of general fund monies.
The unit’s activities are as shown below:
PUTNEY RANCH CAMP
We continued to operate the camp donated to the County by Judge Marsha Putney. Its intention is to provide the “outdoor experience” for developmentally disabled children. This year the camp was again utilized by the Heartland children, local schools, and the Boy Scouts. Additionally, the camp was used by the Department for SWAT training and SAR exercises.
Operation and maintenance of the camp has however, become difficult and time consuming. The Supervisors believe that more benefit to both the children and the county might be realized by selling the camp and placing the funds received from the sale in an ongoing trust account for the intended children, plus the property would be returned to the tax rolls. It was placed on the market and is currently in escrow.
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. Unfortunately, one case turned into a homicide. Through grant funding and an outright gift, the unit was able to obtain an additional quad vehicle and a trailer, which will be converted into a portable kitchen.
Because of economic reasons and improvements in technology many law enforcement agencies are looking at consolidation of operations and services. Realizing that the Sheriffs Department and the two Police Departments have similar and sometimes overlapping dispatch functions, funds from a Homeland Security grant were utilized to conduct a study to examine consolidation of the three independent communications centers. The consultants will conclude the study and make recommendations in the early part of 2014.
The building which houses the main Sheriff’s operation was built in 1940. Up until the mid 1990’s it contained the county Welfare Department. It is approximately 9000 square feet and is greatly overcrowded. Currently the Investigations, Coroner and MADNET units have to be housed off- site.
Planning is currently underway to convert the interior of a county purchased warehouse, with 28,000 square feet of space, into a modern and efficient sheriff facility. Construction is expected to begin and be completed in 2014.
We are a small department, but we do big things.