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Josephine County Sheriff Increases Patrol Hours As Oregon State Police Scale Back Coverage

Oregon State Police are scaling back some of their off-highway patrols in Josephine County. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office is increasing the patrol hours of its existing deputies.

“It really happened at a good time,” Sheriff Dave Daniel says with regards to OSP pulling back some of its coverage in the Sheriff's jurisdiction. “We're able to take a good step forward, as soon as we can. It’s our mission to do that. That’s our job. That shouldn't be placed upon OSP. They just did it when we couldn’t. Well, now we can.”

Starting in 2020, sheriff’s deputies will patrol the county for 20 hours a day, up from 12. Still, Daniel says, the increased hours could negatively impact overall coverage.

“Because we’re spreading out our deputies a little more thin, there's going to be possibly a loss in response times or a reduction in response times during the day,” he says.

Budget cuts in 2012 stripped the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office down to just two deputies. That’s when Oregon State Police began filling coverage gaps with off-highway patrols in an unconventional agreement with the county.

The sheriff’s department has done a lot of hiring since then. The entire department went from about 40 positions in 2012 to more than 100 this year.

Daniel says he was able to redirect funding from a 2017 tax levy intended for county jail improvements to hire more deputies. He has hired about a dozen deputies since then. Many of those new hires are just now completing their academy training and are able to do patrols.

Daniel says there’s still need for improvement.

“It’s not where we need to be, it’s not where we want to be, and it’s certainly not the level of service that I think the citizens of Josephine County deserve,” Daniel says.

OSP officials say they’re refocusing their attention to their jurisdiction on highways in the county — particularly in catching drunk drivers along U.S. 199, one of the state’s deadliest highways.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify that OSP is not pulling back its overall coverage in the county; it’s redirecting its troopers to its original jurisdiction on state highways, as opposed to the off-highway coverage it has been providing to the county since 2012. OSP Lt. Stephanie Bigman says the agency is increasing the number of troopers patrolling the highways in Josephine County.

Copyright 2019 Jefferson Public Radio