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New SJ sheriff’s team focuses on agricultural crime, gangs & narcotics

In just over a month at the helm of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, Pat Withrow is already making big changes.

In a video update that the newly elected sheriff posted to the department’s Facebook page last week, Withrow outlines a number of policy points that he has implemented since taking over the department just four weeks ago – some of which delivered on campaign promises he made about altering the way the department handles staffing issues.

According to the video, Withrow has consolidated the existing patrol staff so that more officers are on duty at any given time “so they can be very proactive out on the street – not just responding to calls after you’ve already been victimized,” the sheriff said.

He also pledged to maintain transparency with routine video updates like the one that was posted so that the public can be informed about what is going on in the county, and Withrow even asked for people to contact his office if there is something that they would like to see covered in the brief segments.

And more officers on the street isn’t the only major change that he has implemented.

Currently in the works, he said, is the new AgNet team – consisting of 20 officers including two sergeants and a lieutenant – that will focus on agricultural, gang, and narcotics crimes across the county. The sheriff’s office previously had detectives assigned to investigate rural crimes as part of a task force as well as a narcotics team, but the new formulation appears to bolster the numbers of officers and investigators able to dedicate themselves to a single issue.

Every officer is also now equipped with a bullet-resistant Helus shield – named after Venture County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Ron Helus who gave his life to stop a mass shooter that killed 11 other people in Thousand Oaks last year – as an added layer of protection in the event that an officer has to engage an active shooter anywhere in San Joaquin County. 

“Many other things are in the works right now, but we’re very excited about what is going on in the sheriff’s office,” Withrow said. “We will try and do this more often – put out videos to keep you abreast as to what is going on in the office.

“It’s my honor to be your new sheriff, and we will continue to work hard to make sure that you and your family are safe.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.