Sheriff's office to hire more deputies with sales tax

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- It's 2018, and that means the new sales tax voters approved is in effect.

The .37 increase means you'll be paying a little more for non-essential items at the store, but the Mesa County Sheriff and District Attorney's offices won't be seeing that money anytime soon.

They'll start reaping the benefits around the end of the first quarter of 2018.

They do have some plans for that cash, through. The Sheriff's office is ready to grow its staff.

"We do have a plan," said Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis. "I think the bulk of our resources will be split between operations, which is our patrol deputies, and our jail, but we do have some, for example, going to our courthouse."

Lewis said crime has been an issue in Mesa County.

While the 2017 crime numbers aren't in yet, the Grand Junction Police Department said there were more than 150 auto thefts in 2017, and the Sheriff's office said there were two homicides.

"We had a lot of incidences of violent crime here in Mesa County, some of them highly publicized," said Lewis. "We had some shootings, we had some tragic events here."

But there's a problem, it's hard to find and retain deputies.

Lewis said staffing was the biggest hurdle his office had to overcome in 2017. They weren't able to fill all the positions they needed last year. They have room for 30 new deputies in2017 and 2018 and need about 10 more this year.

"So we will staff up this year, but we will also take a different approach a very targeted approach on high crime areas and on known criminals," Lewis said.

Part of that approach is using more technology. In February, the sheriff's office will be rolling out a new online platform for reporting small crimes--ones you might just need a case number for insurance purposes.

"That will also alleviate some of the workloads on our patrol deputies that are responding to some of those calls," Lewis said.

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