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Grand jury pushes regional crime effort

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POSTED September 10, 2013 1:48 a.m.

LATHROP – The San Joaquin County Grand Jury wants to get proactive in tackling the rising crime problem.

And it is turning to individual cities a for their assistance in streamlining policies and procedures that could help that goal become a little bit more attainable.

A report that was released last month and distributed to individual city councils for review outlined a series of crime-related statements and solicited responses that mainly centered around how inter-agency cooperation can improve overall safety.

The Lathrop City Council – which contracts for police protection through the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department – didn’t comment or respond on a number of findings that they felt didn’t apply, and those that they did comment on didn’t lay out a clear platform since local law enforcement already comes from the county level.

The following are some of the findings that the report asked for responses on:

• That reduced staffing levels across the board has led to an increasing threat to the safety of San Joaquin County residents.

• That continuing that expanding the use of current technologies would make law enforcement efforts more efficient and help offset some of the costs associated with it.

• That duplication of specialized units leads to an inefficient use of limited resources.

• That even with increased cooperation among law enforcement groups throughout the county, agencies still operate autonomously.

The report also called for each city in the county to recommend two members – one from the law enforcement community and one representing the governing body or management – to an ad hoc committee tasked on crafting a regional approach towards law enforcement.

Because Lathrop receives its police services through a contract with the county, the council agreed to send two council members to represent the community – Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas and Councilman Paul Akinjo – that already represent the city’s interests when it comes to police matters.

Ornelas defended the addition of language that outlines Lathrop’s dedication towards improving its relationship with local police and fire agencies through 2-by-2 committees. He championed the idea of serving on the proposed ad hoc committee.

“What I read here is that we don’t decide what route our department goes, and I don’t believe that’s the case. The contract says that Lathrop has the ability to use things that are more relevant than other cities and even the county is using,” Ornelas said. “I’m not saying that the committee is going to make decisions for the council – at the end of the day the council makes the decisions regarding what direction the department is going to go – but I think that it’s very relevant to say that we’re taking ownership of our own department and we’re trying to make it better.”

Councilman Steve Dresser wanted to make sure that the report didn’t carry any more weight than was merited.

“This is a report by the grand jury – the grand jury does not run our city,” Dresser said. “That falls into our lap to decide what to do, be it term limits or what we’re going to do with our surplus – that’s what the city council does.

“If we let other organizations tell us how they think we should do our business a certain way, then they don’t need us anymore.”

Dresser voted against the grand jury responses, based on a separate issue.

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