What We Do
Formed in 1850, the Sheriff’s Office is the oldest and largest law enforcement agency in the county, covering over 3,200 square miles. The functions of the Sheriff’s Office include patrol, county jail, coroner services, civil division, records and warrants, Sheriff and medical dispatch, search and rescue, a posse unit, aero-squadron, a dive team, and special investigation units.
What We Did in 2014
Expanding Services to Keep SLO County Safe
The County of San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office continued to expand services and develop important solutions to existing problems that affect the safety and security of our community in 2014. From improving the housing capabilities at County Jail to enhancing narcotics detection to gang education and prevention in the unincorporated areas of the County, the Sheriff’s Office tackled tough issues this year, while also serving the community and bringing criminals to justice.
Women’s Jail Expansion Underway
Overcrowding at the Women’s Jail has been an issue for well over a decade, and after several years of planning and fund development, the Sheriff’s Office broke ground on the $40 million Women’s Jail Expansion Project in February 2014.
The focus on this new facility won’t just be housing, but will also include areas for rehabilitation. Studies show that inmates who participate in rehabilitative programs while incarcerated are less likely to become repeat offenders when they re-enter society. The project will result in a 46,000-square-foot facility that includes:
• Women’s Housing Unit: Approximately 38,000 square feet with 198 beds, plus space to provide programs that help prevent inmates from relapsing into criminal behavior.
• Medical Facility: Approximately 8,000 square feet that will serve both men and women inmates, plus offices and a meeting space to be used for inmate rehabilitation programs.
• Security System: A new security system upgrade for the entire jail complex.
The project is funded in part by AB 900, the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2007, after the County successfully applied for these funds and was awarded about $25 million, with the County paying the remaining $15 million to complete the project. The jail is expected to be completed by October 2016.
Drug Detection Enhanced with Added Canines
The Sheriff’s Office officially introduced the newest dog to its Canine (K-9) Unit, expanding narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension for the already successful program. The 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named DJ was sworn into the Sheriff’s K-9 Unit in early 2014, replacing handler Deputy Steve Faeth’s previous K-9, Nico, who was medically retired from the force after two years because of seizures associated with canine epilepsy.
DJ is one of six highly trained dogs in the Sheriff’s K-9 Unit. Sheriff-Coroner Ian Parkinson has greatly expanded the K-9 Unit from one dog in 2010 to six in 2014.
In 2014, the canines were called out for service more than 1,800 times, resulting in 42 suspect apprehensions and the detection and recovery of more than 6,781 pounds of marijuana, 44 pounds of methamphetamine, 5 pounds of cocaine, and 3 pounds of heroin.
The mission of the K-9 Unit is to support agency operations by providing the expertise necessary to effectively search for outstanding suspects, persons, narcotics, and evidence, while enhancing officer safety and providing outstanding service to the community. The K-9 Unit consists of K-9 Jack and his handler Senior Deputy Al Barger, K-9 DJ and his handler Deputy Steve Faeth, K-9 Gonzo and his handler Deputy Mark Souza, K-9 Jacco and his handler Deputy John Franklin, K-9 Dutch and his handler Deputy Josh Fischer and K-9 Hondo and his handler Deputy Bryan Love.
Keeping Kids Out of Gangs
San Luis Obispo County’s gang activity has been steadily growing since the 1960s, but thanks to a concerted county-wide effort, local numbers are not as high as in neighboring counties. The Sheriff’s Office identified 28 current street gangs with 944 documented gang members at the end of 2013, and law enforcement officials have been working closely with community groups like the Anti-Gang Coordinating Commission to keep the problem from growing in this county.
In 2014, the Sheriff’s Office continued and expanded its work with the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, a national gang and violence prevention program built around school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curricula.
Last summer, the Sheriff’s Office successfully enrolled 290 students in the G.R.E.A.T. Summer Camps taught by seven Sheriff’s School Resource Officers.
After reviewing the prior successful Sheriff’s Office G.R.E.A.T. Summer Camps, the Sheriff continued to sponsor three summer camps in 2014 that covered all school districts in the unincorporated areas of SLO County. These summer camps were an additional learning component to the existing G.R.E.A.T. Program and were designed to be a weeklong camp for children in grades six through eight. Funded through community donations, the three camps were free to all the kids and a tremendous success.
“Evidence shows that gang-related violence increases during summer months while kids are on break from school,” said Sheriff-Coroner Ian Parkinson. “These G.R.E.A.T. Summer Camps keep kids out of gangs during the summer, while also teaching them valuable lessons and helping them build healthy relationships with law enforcement officials.”
The 290 students who participated got a chance to enjoy fun events like Tie-Dye Team T-shirts, Tug-of-War, Sack Races, and water balloon toss. They also attended assembly events that included a Bucket Busters concert, which featured a local group of teenagers that play musical instruments out of plastic buckets and water bottles; and Law Enforcement Day, where the Sheriff’s Office and other Law Enforcement agencies display their specialty units for students to learn about and experience first-hand. In addition guest speaker and former gang member Willy Stokes spoke with the students about the consequences of being in a gang and how he turned his life around.
In conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers, other agencies such as San Luis Obispo County Drug and Alcohol Services Friday Night Live Team and San Luis Obispo County Probation Juvenile Division Officers assisted in the planning, participation, and barbecuing for all the students who attended the weeklong camps.
“They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Parkinson said. “The combination of keeping kids out of gangs, educating them and giving them strong role models in law enforcement will help slow down the gang-related violence in our County by stopping it before it begins.”