By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert A. Lovingood secured $1 million for a series of law enforcement sweeps and other operations to both combat crime and set the stage for expanded economic investment.
During Tuesday’s County budget hearing, Lovingood supported restoring $1.5 million for the Wonder Valley fire station that serves Interstate 40 stretching from Barstow to the Arizona stateline. The Board chairman also advocated restoring $1.5 million in funds for an inmate firefighting crew program that has been critical in battling wildfires, including last year’s devastating Blue Cut Fire. Funding for the inmate fire crew had been cut from the County’s draft budget.
Lovingood has been a key proponent of increasing public safety funding, particularly to beef up law enforcement operations. He thanked fellow Supervisors James Ramos and Josie Gonzales in backing his request for crime sweeps. In years past, Lovingood allocated funds for “Desert Guardian” crime sweeps in the Victor Valley. The $1 million allocation takes local anti-crime efforts to an unprecedented new level.
“I’m simply stating the fact that there’s a need. It’s a conversation that we’ve all touched on over the past several years and how we look at public safety,” Lovingood told his Board colleagues. “If we don’t shift this conversation, not only today but next year and every year following until we turn the tide (of crime), we’re at great risk. Our County and each of our communities are at risk.”
Sheriff John McMahon said the additional funding will make an impact.
“Supervisor Lovingood made a promise in the past that if revenues improved, he hoped to further strengthen the Sheriff’s Department by dedicating additional resources to fight crime and target quality of life issues in the county,” McMahon said. “With that commitment, I praise the supervisor for coming through on these promises. With Supervisor Lovingood’s help, we’ve made a huge impact on crime specific issues in the high desert. The additional $1 million will help in funding crime suppression operations that have proven to make a dent in those efforts with the goal of creating a safer environment for the residents in our county.”
District Attorney Michael Ramos agreed that the expanded sweeps will have a significant positive effect.
“Thanks to the efforts of Supervisor Lovingood we are going to be able to more effectively combat crime in the High Desert region,” Ramos said. “Through this additional funding and our collaborative efforts with county officials and local law enforcement, we will make a significant impact in our community.”
Lovingood said more affluent regions of the county have more revenue to spend on law enforcement. But the First, Third and Fifth Districts, he said, are more challenged economically, with a lower tax base and fewer resources. Combatting crime, Lovingood said, is vital to expanding economic development because companies looking to relocate consider crime rates before investing in communities.
The $1 million funding, Lovingood said, will be coordinated by the Sheriff’s Department. As in the past to leverage funds, the County will offer to partner financially with local cities interested in participating in heightened enforcement.
Many law enforcement professionals agree that Propositions 47, 57 and AB 109 have put more criminals on the streets. And Lovingood said the State has stepped back from its law enforcement responsibilities.
“If the State won’t do its job in seriously attacking crime, then San Bernardino County will,” Lovingood said.
In other action, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to restore funding for inmate fire crews. In 2016, inmate crews responded to 738 emergency calls, with that number expected to top 1,000 calls this year. Inmate crews also logged 10,560 hours of work in Victorville, Hesperia, San Bernardino, Needles and unincorporated County areas, including chipping operations in Wrightwood and illegal dumping operations throughout the High Desert.
“Inmate crews logged 84,894 hours last year, saving taxpayers more than $2 million,” Lovingood said. “These crews spent nine days on the Blue Cut Fire and helped collect 578 tons of trash around the High Desert. Clearly, this is an outstanding program that is making a major impact on our communities.”