Rural-crime bill passes Assembly committee

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A proposed law to create a rural crime task force for the San
Benito County area to focus on agriculture-related crimes passed
the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
A proposed law to create a rural crime task force for the San Benito County area to focus on agriculture-related crimes passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

The measure, Senate Bill 44, authored by state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, would be modeled after a program that has shown success in the Central Valley, Denham said.

“It is important for the Legislature to offer their endorsement of this program,” Denham said. “The agricultural counties of the Central Coast should be targeting rural crime just like the counties in the Central Valley.”

The measure now goes before the Assembly floor for consideration.

The bill is to encourage the counties of San Benito, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz to create the task force, which has received strong support from law enforcement and agricultural groups, including the county’s district attorney and sheriff’s department.

D.A. John Sarsfield said the program would increase communication between law enforcement agencies and would help track and help apprehend repeat offenders.

He also said the bill would make it possible for district attorneys and sheriffs for the surrounding counties to join and talk about crime in their areas.

Sheriff Curtis Hill said the program was a good idea and even traveled to Sacramento to testify before a Senate committee about the effectiveness the proposed task force would have in the San Benito-Monterey county area.

He said the bill would allow for specialized law enforcement teams to focus on ag-related crimes, adding to the department’s current attention to ag-related incidents.

The legislation follows the model of the Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program, which covers Stanislaus, Merced and Madera counties.

The bill was co-authored by state Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, and Assemblymen Simon Salinas, D-Salinas, John Laird, D-Santa Cruz and Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria.

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