Sheriff-elect Pat Withrow intends to hit the ground running in his bid to put pressure on criminals in San Joaquin County.
Sixteen days from now after he is sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 7 to replace Steve Moore who he defeated in the June primary election, Withrow’s new command staff will implement two endeavors designed to put more officers on the streets and to do so at times that crime is most likely to occur. That will be done without adding any manpower.
“The moves are designed to have an immediate impact on the safety of the community,” Withrow told Manteca Rotarians during their Thursday noon luncheon meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
The first endeavor will have the five patrol teams during each 24-hour period reorganized into four patrol teams. In doing so, it will reduce the overall time of officers traveling to and from their patrol areas effectively increasing the presence of deputies on the street. It also translates into a smaller share of deputies at any given time that have proactive patrol time taken away by handling paper work.
“The existing command staff has done a real good job,” the sheriff-elect said. “This is a different approach (in a bid to improve effectiveness).”
Withrow said his new command staff has received a positive feedback from deputies given the new work structure should reduce the amount of overtime required and enhance their family life.
“It will give us more time to do parole searches,” Withrow said.
He added deputies should also have more time to make contact with suspicious people in a bid to make it clear there is a higher level of law enforcement presence. The patrol teams work in tandem with the department’s community cars.
The other major initiative that will be rolled out shortly after Withrow takes office will be a new unit dubbed AG-NET — Agriculture, Gangs & Narcotics Enforcement Team.
It will consist of five teams of officers. San Joaquin County will be divided into four quadrants based on Highway 99 bisecting the Crosstown Freeway/Highway 4. The fifth team will float between the quadrants.
Withrow said by combining various units into one and rethinking staffing so that manpower is on the streets when crime analysis shows it is most likely to occur, the department will be better positioned to take on crime. He noted the current gang unit is decimated. He also pointed to operational issues where the two agriculture crime detectives are working Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. noting that is not when most of the farm-related thefts are occurring. By combining manpower with a new unit and having work hours adjusted to when analytics of actual incidents shows when crime is most likely to occur should have a positive impact on efforts to combat crime.
“If we try it (the two new endeavors) and it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else,” Withrow said indicated his command staff is only wedded to having the department to be as effective as possible.
Among his top priorities is getting nearly three dozen vacant deputy positions staffed as soon as possible.
He also wants to employ technology that can free personnel to address more pressing needs. One example is the current practice of stationing a deputy in a patrol car in a field near the honor farm that has been plagued with escapes.
He believes with the simple addition of modern lighting with motion detectors on perimeter fences as well as surveillance cameras honor farm escapes can be further reduced without tying up an officer sitting in a car parked in a field.
Part of the problem is the 1940s era honor farm has been pressed into use in recent years to make the state’s prison realignment program work. That realignment has stopped sending certain non-violent convicted criminals to state prison and instead has them serve sentences in county jails.
The county has secured funding to replace the existing beds in the honor farm barracks with a jail-style facility.
Withrow is pushing for an outside audit of the department’s evidence room in response to concerns evidence in cases have been lost. He said having the department do such an audit can be counterproductive much like when someone proofs a report they have written and often don’t catch the mistakes they make.
“It’s good to have a different pair of eyes,” Withrow said.
Withrow said being able to make sure the evidence room is operating properly and evidence can be efficiently retrieved will be critical in the coming years as changes in state laws will allow felons convicted of certain serious crimes who are now in prison to appeal their cases if they so choose.
An evidence room with no issues means efforts to keep felons off the street can be more successful.
Withrow said the county is taking the Manteca Police Department’s lead and deploying personnel to work on the growing homeless problem by actively working with the homeless and non-profit services in a bid to get people off the street while at the same time enforcing the law.
Withrow wants surveillance cameras
at future commercial pot grows
tied into dispatch center
The coming ability to legally grow marijuana commercially in San Joaquin County and the state edict to allow marijuana delivery services to operate anywhere in California poses definite concerns, according to Withrow.
“Never in my 25 years in law enforcement have I had to wrestle with someone stoned on marijuana for my life,” Withrow said.
That said Withrow noted the real problems swirl around the fact given the federal government hasn’t legalized marijuana, cannabis growers and businesses can’t use banks. That means it is an all cash business making pot entrepreneurs prime targets for crime.
Besides making sure commercial growers are properly licensed and paying taxes, he wants the sheriff’s department to work with them to make sure they have appropriate security in place including the possible use of surveillance cameras that are tied into the dispatch center.
Withrow, who resides in Escalon, is working with the City of Lathrop to reduce the cost of law enforcement services that they contract with the sheriff’s department to provide. The plan includes Lathrop hiring their own officers over the years as they can afford to so they can eventually become a standalone department.
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