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Sheriff deputies step up fight against ag crimes
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When it comes to the number of different approaches to law enforcement within a given agency, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office is unique.

Not only is the agency responsible for housing inmates at the County Jail and providing security for the San Joaquin County Superior Court, but also routine law enforcement patrols in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

And thanks to the hard work of Deputy Don Stuhmer – who was just recently named the President of the California Rural Crimes Prevention Task Force – rural residents are now getting the protection and the attention they have long felt they deserved.

Stuhmer, who is a member of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Agriculture, Gang, Narcotic Enforcement Team, inherited the new position recently and will now be able to network with other rural crimes detectives from throughout California and stay up on trends that are unique to that particular subset of the wider San Joaquin County Community.

“He is a dedicated, hard worker that is very knowledgeable in agricultural crimes,” Sergeant Marcus Smith said about Stuhmer’s performance on the job. “He goes above and beyond in any and every investigation.

“We are lucky to have him.”

A comprehensive team that consists of a lieutenant, a sergeant, and 20 deputies, the task force features experts in fields such as gangs, narcotics, property crime and agricultural crime – pooling the resources that the agency has available to focus efforts where they are most needed and provide flexibility in a variety of different areas.

By using crime mapping data, members of the team use pre-active policing strategies to anticipate where crime will occur and deploying resources to try and prevent it from taking place.

The team also provides much-needed flexibility in other areas such as filling in not just in country patrol areas, but also contracted areas such as Lathrop. Last month the team played a role in providing security at Lathrop school sites while a threat was investigated and ultimately cleared – providing the Sheriff the ability to deploy the resources as needed regardless of location.

Because of San Joaquin County’s unique layout and the unique needs of different communities within its borders, the AGNET team includes a number of experts like Stuhmer that can investigate agricultural crime and aims to prevent loss of property and interruption of service amongst the agricultural community. The concept of providing dedicated agricultural detectives came out of a rise in the number of rural residents that were targeted by thieves looking to capitalize on the rising price of things like copper wire – costing farmers and ranchers thousands of dollars in replacement fees after finding buried conduit and pumps destroyed in pursuit of the scrap metal.

Unique issues that the team investigates and manages include animal fighting, theft and destruction of bees and hives, heavy agricultural theft, livestock theft, metal theft, fish and game violations, and food and agricultural theft. Because of the unique nature of the team’s work and the work of the wider California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force, the work is often multi-jurisdictional and includes working collaboratively with other entities and agencies to both investigate and prevent crime.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.