EDITORIAL: Fresno County jail beds deal will help reduce vehicle theft

Contract could signal new era of cooperation between agencies.

October 30, 2013 

Fresno County supervisors made the right move by voting to seek $80 million in state funds to replace the 66-year-old south annex jail.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

We are delighted to see the Fresno County Sheriff's Office and the Fresno Police Department teaming up to crack down on the vehicle thefts plaguing our community.

If you missed the story by The Bee's John Ellis, here it is in a nutshell:

After using a state grant to reserve three beds in the county jail for prolific car thieves, the county saw a 26% drop in stolen vehicles.

Knowing of Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer's frustration over car thieves routinely being released from the jail because of overcrowding, the Sheriff's Office -- which operates the jail -- offered beds to the city at a cost of $104 per day.

Dyer is taking five beds through June 30 of next year and spending $125,840 from his budget. He says that keeping serial offenders behind bars until they go to trial or make bail will put a big dent in Fresno's nationally chronicled stolen-car problem.

The agreement approved by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is a big deal. Not only will it help residents, but it shows that the law-enforcement agencies are more interested in working together -- at least when it comes to car thieves -- than in protecting political turf.

In this case, Sheriff Margaret Mims is giving Dyer complete say over who occupies the five beds in her jail. Mims is to be commended for signing off on this creative approach to reducing car theft.

We hope that this pact kicks off a new era of cooperation between the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department resulting in more efficient use of taxpayer dollars and a safer community.

One possibility is a joint dispatch center. Supervisor Henry R. Perea raised the idea during his State of the County speech on Sept. 25. Said Perea: "We have opened dialogue with the city of Fresno to say, long term, let's talk again about starting with the consolidation or integration of communication services in Fresno County."

The devil is in the details, of course. But both agencies owe it to the taxpayers to have an open and honest dialogue about the possibilities. They also have an obligation to the residents they serve to seek solutions instead of creating artificial barriers or falling back on excuses such as "that's how we've always done it."

When the Great Recession hit, local leaders vowed to reinvent government. Nearly six years later, they're starting to keep their promise.

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