GRANTS PASS, Ore., – County leaders hope a little extra funding will go a long way for public safety.
Wednesday, County Commissioners approved using $500,000 in a county Timber Payments extension to provide additional funding for the Sheriff’s office and District Attorney. Officials hope the money can be put to use in a way that deters potential criminals, and cuts down on an increase in crime over the past few months.
For the Sheriff’s office, the money will reopen 39 jail beds and hire additional jail staff. Budget cuts forced the jail to close beds and release dozens of inmates in May, and Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said criminals had been operating with no fear of being put behind bars. He says that caused a spike in crime over the summer.
“We need to relieve the pressure on the community, they’re starting to feel the pain of all the burglaries and thefts,” Gilbertson said.
The DA’s office also had to lay off four attorneys in May because of budget cuts. District Attorney Stephen Campbell said the increased workload for the remaining deputy DAs meant his office did not have the time or resources to prosecute every case. The additional funding will allow the office to hire one full-time and one part-time position, and allow them to pursue more cases.
“We need to use half of our time to prepare cases, at least. So this will allow us to prepare and move more cases,” Campbell said.
Gilbertson said the moves should go into effect on Sept. 21.