During the report from the P2B committee, Chairman Bill Nelson talked about the loss of police service during the midnight shift. "I've had people try to call 9-1-1 and not get anyone," Nelson said. "With only a few cars running at night there may or may not be someone immediately available to come."
Nelson and members of the community who attended the meeting talked about the Valley Station being closed at night and the probability that one of the available patrol cars would be nearby in the case of an emergency.
"It's more likely those vehicles will be in Richmond," stated Nelson.
Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf said it's no secret that his department has been drastically cut back over the last several years. "We've had to reduce our service over the last six years and in the current budget the board adopted a number of dollars that required the elimination of some where over 100 deputy sheriffs.
Because the department has made a policy of not filling vacated positions, the number of deputies let go was 25, but the positions remain vacant, Rupf said as the budget woes continue he can't add to his over-stretched workforce.
"We've had reductions across the board," he said. "The thing that's remarkable is that this budget has forced us to do things different than we ever have before."
Rupf said that in order to get officers out in the county more efficiently they hold their briefings electronically, rather than bringing the deputies in for a physical briefing.
In addition, the department has instituted an electronic reporting system so that residents can report misdemeanor crimes such as vandalisms, car burglaries and similar things at the time they occur.
"This way, folks can get us the information," he stated. "Because we're stretched so thin, we're trying to limit our responses to those that absolutely require an officer on scene. That's not my preference, but it's our reality."
There are roughly 170,000 citizens in the unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County that has to be covered by the sheriff's department.
Recently the sheriff and Supervisor John Goia announced that they were able to use redevelopment money to bring more deputies working in North Richmond. Rupf called it a good start. "That's how we're going to have to do it," he explained. "A little bit here and a little bit there. Every little bit helps."
The sheriff's department also has an application in for federal grant money to help offset the loss of manpower. He said that federal funding could help but the best way he will be able to answer concerns like those voiced in Alamo is to get lawmakers to place more budgetary emphasis on public safety.
"The earliest relief is going to be in convincing folks to describe government's funding policy as Public Safety."