It’s November on the Central Coast and that means the nights are a little cooler, football is on TV, and the holiday season is starting to shift into high gear. But before we get too far down that road, I think it’s appropriate to take a moment to give thanks. After all, what better time to do that than during the holiday that actually has “thanks” in its name. So here, in no particular order is what I’m giving thanks for this year at the Sheriff’s Office.
I’m grateful for my Custody staff and the many improvements we’ve made in the jail, especially as it relates to mental health. With our new Chief Medical Officer, our new behavioral health unit, along with a private company that has expertise with in-custody health care, we are able to provide a higher level of medical, mental health and dental care to our inmates.
I want to thank our Patrol Deputies who are our front line when it comes to your safety and welfare. We have deputies on the streets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to any crime. But more than that, I think of them as our goodwill ambassadors who take an active role in the communities they live in. After all, they live, work and play here and they want a safe and secure environment for their families as well.
I am thankful for the hard work and dedication of my Detective Unit. They were challenged this year. Besides all the major crimes like assaults, robberies and burglaries they investigate, they were tasked with solving six homicides that had occurred in the first six months of this year. Typically, in any given year, the county will see zero to two homicides. So, having six in one year is highly unusual. But with an experienced staff of Detectives who are persistent and tenacious, they were able to solve five out of the six homicides. And they are actively working that final case and I’m hopeful a resolution will be found soon.
I am extremely proud of and grateful for our Cold Case/Unsolved Unit Detective Clint Cole. He was able to identify a suspect in two homicide cases in Atascadero that were more than 40 years old. The murders of Jane Antunez and Patricia Dwyer had gone unsolved since 1977. But by using DNA technology, Detective Cole was able to track down the killer. The suspect in these two cases had died in prison on an unrelated case in 2014. While we were not able to make an arrest in these two homicide cases, we feel that by solving these crimes, we were able to give the families of both Jane and Patricia some closure about what happened 40 years ago.
I am thankful for our Rural Crimes Unit who unveiled in September a new, state-of-the-art, crime-fighting tool to help our local ranchers and farmers. It’s called SmartWater CSI, a liquid product to protect farm equipment. The liquid has its own unique fingerprint or DNA encryption that’s registered to individual farmers or ranchers who take part in the program. A small dab on a piece of equipment is all that’s required. Now if that equipment is stolen and we are able to locate the criminal or the stolen items, all we have to do is wave a special light and we are able to trace it back to the owner.
I am grateful for the experience and dedication of my administrative staff, my Undersheriff Jim Voge, my Chief Deputies Jim Taylor and Aaron Nix, and Correctional Captain Denise Armstrong. They are a formidable team and I am lucky to have them.
And whenever I talk about the Sheriff’s Office I always give thanks for the more than 250 volunteers who are a valuable part of our agency. Quite simply, we couldn’t do the job without them. We have everything from Search and Rescue to the Underwater Search and Recovery Dive Team to the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteer Patrol, Aero squadron, Posse and so many more.
And finally, I am grateful to you, the citizens of San Luis Obispo County. You are what makes this County so special. We are lucky to live in a place that has so much natural beauty. But even more so, it’s the goodwill and the good works of the people who live here who truly make this county shine. I am grateful for this and so much more. And so I say to you … thanks.