Brown cites tackling opioid crisis, funding human trafficking detective
The opioid crisis remains the most difficult challenge that Santa Barbara County law enforcement faces, Sheriff Bill Brown told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Sheriff Brown presented his department’s budget needs during the board’s marathon series of budget workshops this week.
Like other departments, Sheriff Brown said law enforcement has had to deal with staff shortages (particularly in the patrol and custody areas) and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, public safety has dealt with the proliferation of illicit drugs; Sheriff Brown said the surge was nationwide, not just in Santa Barbara.
Just last year, Santa Barbara County had 133 drug overdose deaths — the highest amount yet, the sheriff said.
“This is the single most dangerous and difficult challenge that we have in our community that is resulting in an extraordinary number of unnecessary deaths in our community,” Sheriff Brown said, pointing to a new collaborative effort between law enforcement, business leaders, local government and others meant to cut down on deaths. “I really believe this is a moment we need to seize as a community.”
In its recommended $181.9 million budget presented Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office said it would like to add staffing to its co-response team to increase coverage, particularly in the North and South County areas. This additional staffing would allow for additional follow-ups and client engagement.
The addition of the seven full-time equivalents would cost about $1.3 million in ongoing funding.
Additionally, the office requested five FTEs for its narcotics enforcement team for nearly $1.4 million in ongoing funding. Officials presenting the budget said this addition would double the department’s ability to address the illegal drug industry and market.
Another important need for the Sheriff’s Office is money for a human trafficking detective, expected to cost more than $288,000 in ongoing funds.
This position has been funded for the past six years by a collaborative federal grant program that will no longer be available for Santa Barbara County.
If the county does not allocate funding for the position, it will be lost, officials said Tuesday.
“The loss of this detective will dramatically set our county back in our collective ability to proactively identify and rescue human trafficking survivors and seamlessly connect them with the resources and services available through the District Attorney’s Office and our community-based organization partners,” officials said Tuesday. “Our county needs to have this mechanism to locate and rescue survivors.”
The detective is specially trained in conducting trauma-informed investigations while maintaining a survivor-centered approach.
The board already heard a presentation on the Health and Human Services and General Government & Support Services departments on Monday.
No workshop is planned for Wednesday, but on Thursday the board will review the County Council, Board of Supervisors, County Executive Office and general county programs and fund balances.
The county budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 is estimated to be $1.4 billion with a “stable” outlook, according to presentations given this week. This is the fourth consecutive year no county departments need to propose a service level reduction.
(The potential loss of the human trafficking detective in the Sheriff’s Office is not considered a service level reduction as it was funded through a grant.)
The budget workshops can be attended in-person at the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, or online at www.countyofsb.org/ceo/csbtv/livestream.sbc or at www.youtube.com/user/CSBTV20.