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SLO Sheriff gets cash to take on gangs

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Sheriff Ian Parkinson is getting funding for additional manpower to try and prevent gang members in surrounding areas from coming into SLO County.

Members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors approved a number of Parkinson’s requests during budget hearings on June 13 in order to beef up the department’s presence near the county’s northern and southern borders.

“Overall I think we are a very safe county,” Parkinson told the supervisors at the hearing. “However we are surrounded by counties that are not very safe.” 

Among the funds Parkinson requested in the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget were $321,660 for two additional deputy positions on the department’s gang task force and $141,601 for two full-time deputies that would be stationed out of Coast Patrol substation in Los Osos and South Patrol substation in Oceano. The supervisors voted unanimously to approve both, along with several other budget items for the department.

During his presentation to the board, Parkinson raised concerns over the possibility that gang activity in neighboring counties to the north and south could make its way into SLO County. He noted the rise in gang activity and crime in Monterey, Kings, and Fresno counties in the north, as well as gang activity in the Santa Barbara County city of Santa Maria to the south, which experienced a rash of gang-related homicides earlier this year. Parkinson said he was worried that gang members could migrate into SLO County, bringing a rise in violent crime with them.

“We’re surrounded and it’s bleeding in,” Parkinson said. “That’s not meant to scare anyone. That’s a reality.”

Parkinson also said the additional gang task force officers would allow him to place two-person teams at the department’s Templeton and Oceano substations. Those teams would be highly visible and active in preventing and addressing any gang activity, and also keeping gang members from coming to the county.

The two additional deputies in the Los Osos and Oceano substations would increase response times and add deputies to patrol along the county’s coastline and in vulnerable areas like Nipomo, which border Santa Maria. 

South County resident Sylvia Dodd urged the supervisors to approve Parkinson’s budget requests, stating that many residents in the area were concerned about crime.

“There are people there that want safety,” Dodd said. “They all say the same thing, there’s gangs, and there’s property crime.”

In addition to his request for the extra deputies, the board also approved funding for a two-deputy “community action team” that would work with the county’s homeless population, a full-time computer forensics specialist, and money for a full-time detective to work the department’s unsolved homicide cases. 

The total proposed general fund budget for the SLO County Sheriff’s Office for fiscal year 2016-2017 is $40.8 million.

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