Let's Improve Gang Task Force For This County

By  John Derby
Times Publisher
May 12, 2016

There isn’t a person in this county who doesn’t feel that public safety is the No. 1 concern of the residents who live here.
There isn’t one Merced County Supervisor who doesn’t feel this is part of the county’s job, guaranteeing people a safe place to live.
There isn’t one of us who lives here who isn’t shamed by the blunt fact which DA Larry Morse and Sheriff Vern Warnke have forced us to open our eyes to.
We are the worst county in California when it comes to homicides.
Knowing this, what is the solution?
We recommend immediate support for a Gang Task Force at the Sheriff’s Department to boost a countywide, multiagency effort. New funding for organization and staffing should be adopted as part of this year’s budget.
Where do we get the money?
For starters, each County Supervisor will cut his or her discretionary budget in half. That amounts to $100,000; just a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.
Perhaps for the first year, the funding should be set at half a million dollars by taking money from other areas of the budget like money which the county gets from drug forfeitures.
Meanwhile, Merced County would attempt to get government grants for helping to fund the Gang Task Force.
At least one of the people on the task force should be connected to the District Attorney’s office to coordinate the legal aspects of gang enforcement. Another five deputies would work specifically on gang suppression efforts in each of the five Supervisorial Districts.
Meanwhile, Merced County would attempt to get government grants for helping to fund the effort.
The funding should be given top priority — even over roads in Merced County. While we feel road improvement is very important, public safety has to be No. 1.
If there is going to be an increase in the sales tax. It should be countywide with a portion going to public safety; perhaps that would make it more palatable for cities like Los Banos.
Merced County cannot hope to attract new business and industry with the reputation of the worst homicide county in the state.
Look at the City of Merced, when it passed Measure C. Voters had that in mind, and as a result the homicide rate has been reduced to zero since the first of this year.
We feel Merced County does not only have a problem with wages and benefits it provides for it, it has a morale problem because when our deputies place themselves in the line of fire, they wonder if the people in this county care if they live or die.
It is time to change this, but that doesn’t happen unless we start now.
With the election only a few weeks ahead, public safety should be the top issue.
The first step would be to support a fully robust and engaged Gang Task Force for the entire county.

Call (209) 383-0433
or (209) 358-5311

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