The city of Fresno is on track to lease five county jail beds, which police Chief Jerry Dyer says will help in the battle against car thieves.
Under an agreement approved Tuesday by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors -- which the Fresno City Council will take up on Thursday -- the city would pay the county $104 per day for each of the five beds and would have total say over who occupies them.
The agreement runs through the the fiscal year ending June 30. Total cost to the city: $125,840. It is a renewable deal.
"I didn't want to take the $126,000 out of my budget for the next nine months, but I do think it's a good investment," Dyer said.
Without the agreement, the city had no say about who was kept and who was released from the Fresno County Jail. Sometimes, Dyer said, the Fresno Police Department didn't agree with who was released.
In a presentation to the supervisors, Dyer highlighted the city's five biggest car thieves, and noted that each had criminal records that included other offenses such as burglary, drugs and domestic violence. But after being arrested, they often were quickly back on the street due to early jail releases to prevent overcrowding.
"I believe there is a direct correlation between the availability of bed space in our jail and crime control, specifically auto theft and property crimes," Dyer told supervisors.
Sheriff's officials made the offer to lease beds to the city, Undersheriff Steve Wilkins said.
Currently, the county has three beds in the jail that are dedicated to auto thieves. The cost is paid by the state through the Help Eliminate Auto Theft -- or HEAT -- task force.
In the past year, Wilkins said, the county's auto theft rate is down 26%, a drop he attributed to the dedicated jail beds.
Dyer noted that auto thefts in Fresno spiked in 1994 at 13,580 -- or around 37 stolen cars per day. The city received unwanted attention as the nation's car-theft capital.
But between 1994 and 2009, there was a 76% reduction in Fresno's auto theft rates, Dyer said. He attributed that to technological advancements on vehicles, enhanced policing efforts, and people learning to take better care of their property. But the top reason for the decline, he said, was the opening of the North Annex Jail and the bed space it added.
Unfortunately, Dyer said, the recession and closure of jail floors led to a 47% increase in auto thefts after 2009. With jail floors reopening last year, the auto-theft rate dropped 10%, but it is up 1% this year.
Between Monday and Tuesday, the chief said, 16 cars were stolen in the city. A goal to aim for, he said, is to get car thefts below nine cars per day.
"I am confident that with us having these guaranteed beds, that it is going to allow us to do that," he said.
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