As the largest law enforcement agency in San Luis Obispo County, the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for protecting the life and property of local residents, while providing service, security and safety to the community.
While the County Sheriff’s Office strives to be the “peacekeepers” for the County, the office also recognizes the growing crime trends in the area and the need to prepare for them.
One of the Sheriff’s Office’s greatest achievements in 2016 was securing the approval from the County Board of Supervisors to create several new positions, including two Gang Task Force deputies, two Community Action Team deputies, and one unsolved crimes detective.
Community Action Team
In 2016, a growing concern of the Sheriff’s Office involved homeless encampments, especially in local agricultural communities.
Over the past several years, many of these encampments have been hazardous environments for the occupants and have affected landowners, their business viability, their range land, and their natural water supply.
Sheriff’s deputies have found hazardous materials and chemicals such as hypodermic needles, illegal drugs, fecal matter, minor oil spills, and propane tanks during visits to these encampments. These pose a threat not only to these occupants and their children, but also the land and creek water that are exposed to these contaminates.
In 2016, the Sheriff’s rural crime deputies and inmate workers helped restore some of these creeks and range lands back to their natural setting, only to see the same transient occupants take up camp near-by.
A long-term solution was needed to help these campers, so that they could receive the proper care they and their children needed. Oftentimes these individuals are not strangers to the criminal justice system and create significant impacts on the courts, jails and law enforcement response due to their high recidivism rates.
In July 2016, the County Board of Supervisors approved several new positions at the Sheriff’s Office, including that of two new Community Action Team (CAT) members.
The purpose of this new team is to identify individuals in these homeless encampments to get them appropriate treatment for drug/alcohol dependencies and/or mental health issues, which will hopefully integrate them back into society and reduce crime.
Several ways the County hopes to achieve this is by working closely with other community partners such as Transitions Mental Health, San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health, San Luis Obispo County Probation Department, San Luis Obispo County Veteran’s Outreach as well as court personnel and Judges.
These working relationships will help facilitate the process of ensuring those associated with homeless/transient camps are moved to appropriate housing facilities, and that they receive referrals to treatment facilities in lieu of jail time when appropriate.
Unsolved Crimes in SLO County
The County recently created a new unsolved crimes detective position to provide a more thorough and cohesive investigation into unsolved crimes or inactive cases.
Historically, the County’s seven general crimes detectives assigned to unsolved and cold cases were responsible for balancing this work load along with felony and other major criminal cases, such as:
- missing persons
- and any other crime against persons and property
In 2016, there were about 1,700 of these cases. Having one full-time dedicated detective assigned to all unsolved and cold cases will not only free up the general crime detectives’ time to work on current cases, but will provide a more thorough and cohesive investigation into unsolved or inactive cases.
With this new position, the goal is to organize and index the approximately 40 unsolved/cold case files the Sheriff’s Office has, dating back to 1962. Many of the original documents from these cases are beginning to deteriorate, and need to be electronically processed in order to maintain their integrity.
After indexing and cataloging all of these cases, then assessing them for solvability and prioritizing each case, the focus will move to follow up investigation that will hopefully allow several of these cases to be closed within the first quarter of 2017.
For those cases with collected evidence, the unsolved crimes detective will utilize the County’s crime lab to identify those that would benefit from modern evidence extraction techniques and testing, in hopes to find strong leads to investigate.