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Possible funding cuts for DASO; Residents respond

By Andrew J. Polk, Multimedia Journalist, andrew.polk@kvia.com
Published On: Feb 26 2014 08:59:26 PM CST

On the agenda for the Dona Ana County Commissioner's Tuesday includes cutting $1.4 million from the Sheriff's Office budget. That has residents in crime-stricken Chaparral upset, and looking for solutions. ABC 7's Andrew J. Polk reports with the New Mexico Mobile Newsroom.

The Dona Ana County Commissioners could cut over a million dollars from the Sheriff's Office budget in Tuesday's commission meeting. If approved, $1.4 million for additional deputy positions would be moved from the sheriff's budget and into the county's general fund for "one time capital" expenses. That has sheriff's officials concerned, and Chaparral residents aren't happy.

As first reported weeks ago, Chaparral is in the midst of a crime wave. Residents said their homes have been robbed multiple times and local businesses are also having to deal with brazen daylight armed robberies. They also say the current increase in law enforcement patrols isn't helping.

"What we're doing is writing a lot of tickets, we're impounding a lot of cars, but has anybody been arrested? No," said Richard Plock, pastor at Chaparral's First Baptist Church.

Plock says that a 24-hour police presence is what needed, but that may not be possible if County Commissioners move funds from the sheriff's budget. The money being considered is intended for the salaries of currently vacant positions at the Sheriff's Office, including about 20 law enforcement officers. There's been a lot of problems filling those jobs, and the county is considering sending that money to the general fund. That could affect the Sheriff Office's ability to serve areas like Chaparral.

Kelly Jameson, PIO for the Sheriff's Office, said "All the budget talks in the world can't change geography. It's not going to change the fact that we have a very large area to cover, and that we have fewer deputies to do that with."

What matters to people in Chaparral is making sure their streets are kept safe.

"Don't take our money," Plock said. "We need police protection. The money that's allocated needs to stay allocated."

Plock said that one thing that has improved since ABC 7 first reported on the string of robberies is that people are talking with and watching out for each other. The Chaparral Community Development Association will be having a meeting March 3 at 6 p.m. at the Betty McKnight Center on County Line to bring the community together to address the issue with law enforcement and create awareness.

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