Jul 01

A Safe Neighborhood Starts with Neighbors

Posted on July 1, 2019 at 9:13 AM by Dionne Waugh

One of my initiatives for the Sheriff’s Office is to enhance a community policing program that integrates a strategic partnership with citizens to help prevent crime in unincorporated Jefferson County. Community policing dates back to the early 1980’s as a law enforcement philosophy that allows officers to serve a dedicated area and develop a strong bond with residents and employees living and working in that area. Currently we have two resident deputies assigned to the southernmost part of our service area, for quicker response to emergency calls in more remote locations such as the Pike National Forest. 

Most of our criminal activity, however, occurs in much more densely populated south Jeffco. Therefore, a comprehensive community policing program must also take into consideration the type of criminal activity impacting each community, common concerns of its residents, and the best approach to involving entire neighborhoods in public safety partnerships.

Each summer, National Night Out (NNO) grants us the opportunity to discuss these aspects of the community policing initiative with residents and other stakeholders throughout the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County. NNO is one of the longest standing police-community campaigns, introduced in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch to increase drug and crime prevention awareness while joining neighbors with law enforcement and generating local participation in anti-crime efforts.

This year National Night Out falls on Tuesday, August 6, and many Jeffco neighborhoods and communities are planning events for residents concerned about public safety. I encourage you to participate in your local event or consider hosting one yourself if none exists in your area, because a connected community combats our most common crimes of burglary, trespass to vehicles, and vehicle theft. 

These types of crimes often occur in sprees (a high occurrence of similar crimes within a short period of time), or as a series (a group of similar crimes committed by the same person or people), but are less likely to occur in neighborhoods whose residents know each other, share information, and are aware of who comes and goes on their street. For these neighborhoods, suspicious vehicles or people are noticed and criminal activity is reported. 

Residents who share a common desire for a safe neighborhood remind each other to lock their cars, leave a house light on, and close garage doors. These seemingly small steps deter crime for the entire block. If a suspect finds unlocked cars on a dark street, he will find more because he will continue down the street. But if the cars are locked and the street well-lit, he will leave and look elsewhere. Even just the simple act of visiting with your neighbors in driveways, front yards, and over fences prevents crime because more community activity means less criminal activity. 

We appreciate the opportunity National Night Out grants us to join our communities in the fight against crime. And we encourage neighborhood or homeowners associations in unincorporated Jeffco to contact us at crimeprevention@jeffco.us to schedule a deputy to attend their NNO event. More important than the partnership of a one day event, however, are the relationships built every day between neighbors. While there may not be a resident deputy in every neighborhood, every neighborhood has residents just as concerned about public safety as you and me. So take the time to meet them. 

And then remind them to lock their doors and leave a light on.

Jun 03

2020 General Fund Reduction Impact

Posted on June 3, 2019 at 12:25 PM by Jennifer Fulton

In April, I received instructions from the County Manager’s Office to reduce the Sheriff’s Office general fund budget for 2020 by 7%, or $6.7 million. This decrease raises significant concern regarding the overall safety of our community. Therefore my executive staff and I have been working to identify priorities and better understand the potential consequences of the proposed cuts. While there may be opportunities for small savings elsewhere within the JCSO, the greatest impact will be to the detentions facility. 

The reduction of personnel costs necessary to meet the requested budget cut equates to a decrease of 400 - 600 jail beds. In addition, such a significant reduction in available beds would result in the elimination of the U.S. Marshals contract, roughly a $1.8 million revenue loss. Put simply, by holding vacancies open to reduce detentions staffing levels, jail capacity decreases by as much as 44%. All remaining beds would need to be utilized for local inmates and detainees rather than reserved for federal prisoners.

Unfortunately these – reduced jail capacity and lost revenue – are not the only considerations complicating the JCSO’s budget planning process. The County’s decision to retain vacancy savings while also charging termination pay-outs back to the affected department will result in an estimated additional $1.3 million decrease to the Sheriff’s Office general fund budget of $98 million. Combining the 7% proposed budget cut, loss of the U. S. Marshals contract, and the recent County policy change regarding vacancy savings and termination pay-outs, the total net impact to the JCSO for 2020 is approximately $10 million. 

Over the past several weeks I have initiated discussions about the County’s budget reduction proposal with JCSO command staff and employees, our Citizens Advisory Council members, and other stakeholders, including local police chiefs. All are in agreement that it is imperative the County engage in a prioritization solution rather than pursuing across-the-board cuts that will have a significant and regrettable impact on public safety. And all will be kept informed of additional County directives and their subsequent budgetary repercussions.
 
Barring a different approach, however, and based on the consequences illustrated above, steps must be taken now to mitigate the potential impact to the public’s safety. Primarily by implementing a moratorium on hiring for non-critical positions. Unfortunately such a restrictive hiring policy will result in
The inability to hire or promote key staff that would ensure the long-term success of the JCSO, achieve our strategic goals, and advance our succession planning processes
An immediate reduction of jail beds, thus prohibiting the application of our Jail Use Plan, which incorporates the additional 22 FTEs for detention deputies approved by the Board of County Commissioners one year ago 

It is important to note, however, that as we consider additional cost-savings during 2019, the following criteria will also factor into all budgetary decisions for the JCSO:
Avoiding any lay-offs
Maintaining our hard-sought merit-based step increases for all employees

Ultimately it is my hope the Board of County Commissioners and the County Manager’s Office will reconsider the proposed across-the-board cuts, prioritize public safety, and reverse recent decisions or directives that have significant adverse implications for Jefferson County residents. The Sheriff’s Office is committed to being actively involved with the BCC, County Manager’s Office, and other County officials in identifying suitable solutions to the projected 2020 budget deficit to ensure Jefferson County continues to be a safe place for all people to live, learn, work, and play.
Apr 19

A Resilient Columbine

Posted on April 19, 2019 at 12:50 PM by Dionne Waugh

By Sheriff Jeff Shrader
April 20, 2019
Sheriff Shrader Behind the Badge
This month marks twenty years since one of the worst events in Jefferson County’s history. But it also marks twenty years of extraordinary resilience in our community. Many Sheriff’s deputies who responded on April 20th are still with the JCSO, but even those who have left or who have begun their careers since then, share an emotional connection to Columbine High School and its students, families, faculty and staff. Past, present and future.  

These emotions are often mixed: relief that two decades have passed, anxiety when misguided individuals direct their attention at Columbine, joy to meet the adults that former students have become, sadness for each anniversary, hope for future generations of graduates, and an overwhelming sense of PRIDE. I am extremely proud of the resilience I have witnessed during the past twenty years, and that I know my successors will witness during the next twenty. 
Those who were involved in the tragedy as a student, family member, staff, or first responder experience a heavy heart when an anniversary returns, a school is put on lockdown, or a similar event occurs elsewhere in the country. For families who lost a loved one, teachers who lost a student, or students who lost a friend, this burden is the greatest. While we wish we could ease this load, and hope that twenty years will somehow help it subside, we must continue to persevere.

And this week we did. When our community was threatened we came together to protect our schools and our students. Parents, school districts, and local, state, and federal law enforcement took the necessary actions to ensure our kids stayed safe. YOU made sure our kids stayed safe. As your sheriff, I would very much like to be able to say tragedy will not strike Jefferson County again. But we are not immune. Instead, I can say from experience over the last twenty years, and from recent events, that if we continue to be resilient, we will prevail against any evil that may come our way. 

This month and always, we remember those who lost their lives on April 20, 1999. We reflect on the tragic events of that day. And we recommit to being a resilient community where all people can live, learn, work, and play.  
 
Jeff Shrader, Sheriff
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office