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Southern Humboldt seeing increased foot patrols, drug enforcement

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GARBERVILLE- Nearly two weeks after a maximum enforcement drug sweep in Southern Humboldt, residents say they are on their way to a safer community. It's all thanks in part to a new sheriff's sergeant, Jesse Taylor, and residents putting a foot down on crime.

Sgt. Taylor began his new role at the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Garberville substation in January and since then has been making waves in Southern Humboldt.

One of the new changes: making foot patrols the new norm.

"Something I've instituted that I think has been really successful is more foot patrols in the Garberville and Redway areas," Sgt. Taylor said. "There's just so much more you see and you can interact a lot more efficiently when you're out of the car."

The increased presence on the street comes months after the community demanded coverage from the sheriff at two town hall meetings.

"The community really needs the Sheriff's Office and I've been trying to listen to what their concerns are," Sgt. Taylor said. "I think really our staffing hasn't increased although I think overall our visibility and our proactively has."

As a was to increase coverage without more staff, Sgt. Taylor implemented a new schedule. Now when the day shift goes home, he is there to cover the hours until the night shift arrives. Although the department still is not providing complete 24 hour coverage, they are covering many more hours of the day. The increase in coverage is also allowing stricter drug enforcement, with aims to cut off drug addicts at the source. Deputies with the Garberville substation and the drug task force arrested eight during a maximum enforcement operation in early march. Residents say that operation cleared the street for days.

"It's something that we're going to do more of," Sgt. Taylor said. "I'd like to see the Drug Task Force down here more often, once or twice a month if not more but you know they're also being pulled from other angles too."

But there's a lot to be done still in Southern Humboldt with the business community like so many others feeling the impact of Prop. 47.

"We're still having a lot of vandalism and broken windows periodically and shoplifting," Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cinnamon Paula said.

Prop. 47 became law in November and says that theft up to $950, including of a firearm is a misdemeanor. The law also makes possession of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine misdemeanor offenses, meaning a person will get arrested for the crime, booked or cited, and released.

"They're arresting them say ten in the morning and sometimes they're out by five at night," Local Business Owner Michelle Bushnell said.

Although there's not much the Sheriff's Office can do about the new law, Sgt. Taylor says the community's help is key to get offenders off the streets.

"The more that the people are looking out for each other, the more effective we can all be together," Sgt. Taylor said. "I think that you know, installing security cameras, calling in suspicious things. You know even if it's something you're hesitant , you don't think is worthy of a phone call, just make it."

Sgt. Taylor is also looking to Measure Z, the new county wide half cent sales tax that goes into effect next month, to help generate revenue for more deputies and better coverage in Southern Humboldt. Residents say it still looks to be a long road towards total change, but the increased presence gives them hope. As the tourism season approaches, residents say regardless of the changes, visitors should not be afraid to go to southern.

"People think Southern Humboldt is a scary place," Bushnell said. "It's no scarier than Eureka or Fortuna. We just don't have as much backup here and I for one would live nowhere else."