The highly popular Sheriff's Community Car program serving rural areas was rescued from the budget ax Wednesday afternoon after the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors ordered that it remain in the county budget.
County Sheriff Steve Moore, who said he planned to establish the Community Car program for rural areas when he first ran for sheriff in 2006, planned to reluctantly cut the program because of the austere county budget picture.
However, county supervisors said they want to retain almost $2.5 million for the Community Car program and programs in several other county departments. They asked County Administrator Manuel Lopez to recommend where to cut $2.5 million from other parts of the budget.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. today to finalize the $1.2 billion county budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The meeting will be held in the board chambers, 44 N. San Joaquin St., Stockton.
The Community Car program focuses on assigning Sheriff's deputies to a particular community so they get to know residents and merchants of that community and basically become an expert on crime issues facing the area.
Woodbridge, Thornton, Lockeford, Linden, east Stockton and the Country Club area of Stockton are served by the Community Car program. Deputies assigned to Woodbridge and Thornton sometimes patrol Acampo as well to give that community an extra law enforcement presence, Moore said.
The Sheriff's department focuses on law enforcement in areas outside the seven cities in San Joaquin County along with operating the county jail, coroner's office, court bailiff services and the public administrator's office. And in May, Animal Control was transferred from the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office to the Sheriff's umbrella.
While considering the need for public safety in unincorporated areas, the Board of Supervisors also examined the needs reported by the District Attorney's Office, Public Defender, Probation Department and Juvenile Hall.
Tasso Kandris, who serves on the Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council, told the board today that Woodbridge has been able to "reclaim" its community park for use by families instead of the gangs that used to infiltrate it.
Kandris also credited Community Car deputies with preventing some youths from joining gangs, minimizing graffiti and seeing that would-be truants go to school. Woodbridge has become a stopping point for gangs from Stockton to Galt, he added.
Lockeford resident Bob Davis, who is active in Neighborhood Watch, credited Community Car deputies with reducing crime in his community by getting to know young people.
District Attorney Jim Willett, whose department prosecutes suspects in court after police officers and Sheriff's deputies arrest them, successfully pleaded his case about why satellite offices are needed in Lodi and Manteca.
Referring to reporter Jordan Guinn's interview with a former Sureño in Saturday's News-Sentinel, Willett told the Board of Supervisors that gang members are aware that Lodi DA's office closed.
"The crooks know what's going on," Willett said.
In addition to the $603,000 needed to restore the Community Car program, the Board of Supervisors decided late Wednesday to restore the following:
- $700,000 for three deputy district attorneys and a legal technician to restore DA's offices in Lodi and Manteca. Lodi's office closed in May, when its building lease expired.
- $921,000 to fund three positions to support communicable disease prevention activities.
- $256,000 for four positions to expand public health nurse home visits.
- $305,000 to retain 3.6 positions to maintain health clinic and laboratory services at the 2010-11 level.
- $50,000 to the San Joaquin Partnership, which encourages economic development in the county.
- $37,000 to the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
- $50,000 to support family resource centers.
- $28,000 to support Alternative Service Volunteer Program.
- $68,000 to maintain core services at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.