GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Law enforcement officials in Josephine County say they are seeing the same offenders time and time again. The sheriff’s office says last year’s budget cuts have limited the ways they can punish criminals.
It’s been nearly a year since the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s office were hit by budget cuts and they say criminals in Josephine County have used trial and error to see what they can get away with. Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said a recent encounter off duty showed him how fearless criminals have become in Josephine County this year.
“Three youngsters came around a corner and one of them threatened he was going to steal my truck,” Gilbertson recalled. “He said it twice and I said I wouldn’t recommend it and he came back with ‘I’m going to beat your [expletive] into the ground.’ Mentioned that a couple times. I told him I was the sheriff and I have a place to put them if that’s what they decide to do. The second one spit on me and the third one put a dent in my truck.”
Cuts last year eliminated jail beds and laid off deputies and prosecutors. Gilbertson says criminals have caught on to the fact that in many cases, there’s little law enforcement can do. So the same people are committing crimes over and over. District Attorney Stephen Campbell opened his files Friday morning to a person arrested multiple times recently for shoplifting without jail time.
“That’s a person that, if we had a healthy system, needs to go to jail for a short period of time,” Campbell said.
Cambell also said with space in the jail being reserved for the most serious suspects, others have been let out awaiting trial and committed more crimes; the more crimes, the higher their eventual sentence will be.
“By committing that many crimes, also raised the potential sentence he can get,” explained Campbell.
Sheriff Gilbertson says there’s so substitute for how to deal with criminals.
“The only way you can stop this stuff is just that, you stop them,” the Sheriff stated.
Josephine County has put a new tax levy on the ballot to help fund law enforcement. Sheriff Gilbertson says he supports the plan.