Does the Sheriff Really Have to Stand Alone?
by Frank Morin
With yet another levy on the upcoming ballot in May, questions and opinions are again swirling around Grants Pass and Josephine County about public safety. Supporters of the levy point to a wave of crime that has swept the county, including recent murders and a sharp spike in home invasions, thefts and burglaries as ample evidence that we need a functioning public safety department. Opponents of the levy voice distrust of the county government, opposition to any new taxes, or confidence in their ability to protect their own property with their personal arsenal of guns.
Funding public safety is a major concern for the county, one we’ve struggled to find the right solution to. There’s lots of sometimes-wild claims thrown around as fact, lots of anecdotal evidence, and many people who stubbornly cling to a position without bothering to learn the truth.
So I decided to go to the source of on-the-ground information. Sheriff Dave Daniel, the man we recently elected to take the reins of a mostly-shuttered Sheriff’s department. Who better than the sheriff to answer questions about the reality of the situation in the county?
The most important question I had to ask was why would this twenty year veteran of city, state, and county police agencies campaign to win a job no one in their right mind would want? He’s got almost no staff, faces bold criminals who are increasingly brazen in their attacks, and lacks any detectives with which to investigate crimes.
Sheriff Daniel’s answer cut through the rhetoric, the politics, and the hidden agendas of many people who are clamoring to be heard in the levy debate.
“I live in Josephine County,” he said. “I saw that we risked continuing down this slippery slope into anarchy if we didn’t turn the situation around. I took this job to try to change things for the better.”
Sheriff Daniel admitted that he took a pay cut, a cut to retirement and healthcare benefits, and took on the biggest challenge of his life to become sheriff. He did it because he felt he could make a difference. He quoted a well-known saying from Edmund Burke.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
He went on to say, “I challenge the good men and good women of Josephine County to stand up and help make this county a better place.”
So that’s the question, the heart of the matter. Will the sheriff stand alone against this wave of crime, or will we stand with him? Do we want Josephine County to be known as a lawless place where criminals rule and citizens have no recourse to justice?
Some people will scoff and say, “It’s not that bad.”
With 85,000 people in the county, the Sheriff can only patrol with between 1 and 4 deputies on any given day. They can provide help only 10 hours each day. As he put it, “That’s really pathetic.”
The criminals know this and they’re capitalizing on it. As Sheriff Daniel explained, “There’s a sense among the criminal population that when the sun goes down the cops go away and they can do whatever they want.”
Cave Junction and the Illinois Valley have recently seen a spike in criminal activity. Burglaries are now a nightly occurrence. In the past two weeks there’s been a fatal shooting and a fatal DUI-related crash. Recently there was a home invasion where armed men zip-tied the home owners inside their own home and proceeded to steal everything they owned.
This kind of terror and crime is the new reality of Josephine County.
In May we have the chance to decide if it continues, or if we’re going to stand with the sheriff and take back our county.
We’re past the time for excuses and opposition based on false accusations. This new levy includes for the first time language forcing the funds to be used for public safety. It includes an oversight committee to audit use of the funds. So those who claim they can’t trust the county government to use the money wisely, your voices have been heard and safeties are in place. Will you now stand for justice, or will you trot out another flimsy excuse?
For those who claim they cannot afford the levy, the reality is the cost of not restoring a functioning public safety system will be far higher. How much will it cost to replace your belongings if your house is robbed? How much will it cost if property values decline and insurance rates go up because of unrestrained crime?
How much is it worth to stand with the Sheriff in declaring to the criminal population, “Enough is enough. This is our home and we will not allow that kind of behavior any more?”
For me the answer is a simple one.
I stand with the Sheriff.
Where do you stand?
Frank Morin is a local author, business owner, and scoutmaster who lives in Grants Pass with his family. For more information about his novels, including local book launches, check out his web site: www.frankmorin.org