Today our communities face challenges unprecedented in most of our lifetimes-massive layoffs, people losing their homes and safety nets, reduced services, radical declines in home values and a severely reduced tax base. Our publicly elected officials face extraordinarily difficult decisions as they struggle to find the necessary resources. If ever there were a time for us to pull together as a community, it's now, and one key element that demands our attention is the dire shortage in funding for public safety in Pinal County. In 2008 the County elected a new Sheriff who promised us improved services, integrity, and accountability. Since he took office in January, Sheriff Paul Babeu has made significant progress in acting on his promises improving emergency response times and training, reorganizing and revitalizing his department holding employees accountable, implementing financial audits, and seeking multiple other ways to improve the County's public safety going forward.
Sheriff Babeu has taken office contemporaneously with significant increases in the threat level to our community. Crime rates, including for burglary and homicide, have spiked, and Pinal County has become a focal point for human and narcotics smuggling as crime cartels move their operations north to avoid increased border surveillance. But the Sheriff's Office suffers from a severe shortage of personnel and funding, putting everyone at risk-the officers who risk their lives for us every day, and all of us who reside in or visit our wonderful county, one that is larger than the State of Connecticut, geographically dispersed, and growing fast. Recently the Board of Supervisors approved the Sheriff's request to seek federal funding for an additional 15 officers, but with scarce resources there is no guarantee that funding for even one new officer will be approved, and even 15 wouldn't provide the desired level of staffing.
This isn't scaremongering - it's a very real threat caused by changes in our society that we cannot ignore. Nor is it safe to assume that the increasing levels of crime and violence will be confined to internal warfare between groups of narcotic and human smugglers; that assumption was made by many communities in Mexico a decade ago, but it was a tragic mistake and the results we see today south of us are strong evidence of what may occur in Pinal County if action is not taken now. The crime cartels are sophisticated, resource-rich, and unconcerned about the damage they cause.
With so many people suffering these days, so many needs are a priority. But public safety is the bedrock of our security and our way of life; if the law-abiding cannot be safe in their homes and communities, everything is threatened. I've never met Sheriff Babeu, but I strongly support his vision and his approach. In these times of repeated violations of the public trust we're especially fortunate to have his leadership. But he and his team cannot provide the level of service we need without sufficient resources -for additional deputies, training, vehicles, equipment and updated technology. They deserve our unqualified support to find the solutions and the funding that is needed, whether at the County, State or Federal level. I don't have all the answers, but I know that we as a community can find them if we all work together. Times of crisis also present opportunities, and now is the time to act. If you support the Sheriffs goals, then please contact your elected representatives, voice your support and help develop a plan to find the solutions the County needs. If your home is invaded, your family threatened, injured or worse, won't you wish you had?
Rachel Trinder is a Pinal County homeowner.