Ron Krebs is seeking a second term as San Juan County Sheriff. Due to a number of retirements, he has hired new deputies resulting in a much younger force. He's proud of his team and wants to continue to work with them to make the islands safer and friendlier to citizens and visitors.
One of the big changes, Krebs proposes is the addition of a canine unit. A dog from the fall litter will be procured and one of the three officers who have applied will be selected to become the dog handler. The first year will include training. The dog will spend all of its time with the officer. After the dog retires, it continues to live with the officer.
"After the first of the year, they'll start the training and go through a three- or four-month training process. It will probably be a year before the dog is fully up to speed." He noted the canine handler will still be doing other work in the Sheriff's Office during the training period.
Krebs believes the addition of a drug-sniffing dog will increase the likelihood of the Sheriff's Office having probable cause to search a vehicle during a traffic stop. If the dog indicates there are drugs in the vehicle, that constitutes probable cause and allows the deputy to search the vehicle and ask all occupants for their identification. Without probable cause, the law enforcement officer cannot ask anyone except the driver for identification. If a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, they can be asked for ID.
Krebs says the dog will be used on all four ferry-served islands. The canine unit will also be used to check out boats.
Krebs talked about the difficulty of making drug arrests in the county. The usual standard is three undercover buys by a confidential informant. This is exceptionally difficult in a small community where just about everybody knows each other. He said he had six people say they would be willing to be confidential informants, but they all changed their minds.
If someone tells Krebs they just purchased drugs at a house. They will be interviewed extensively, asked to describe the interior of the home where the purchase took place. They will need to say exactly where the drugs were kept. With specific details, the Sheriff's Office will attempt to obtain a search warrant from the court. The warrants are very limited in what they allow to be searched. "It's not like the movies, where you go in and toss everything," Krebs said.
Asked why the county is now sending prisoners to Yakima County Jail rather than somewhere closer, Krebs said the decision was mostly financial. Traditionally, San Juan County sent prisoners to Island County Jail in Coupeville. However, the four beds that were dedicated to San Juan County are now needed by Island County. Plus the fallout from the tragic death of Lopez Island resident Keaton Farris at Island County jail played a factor.
While researching alternatives, Yakima at $60 per day including mental and medical exams, was the cheapest option. Skagit County has built a new jail. The cost would have been $193 for each prisoner. The cost of flying prisoners to Island County Jail was $145 each. Now the prisoners are picked up in Skagit County by a Yakima jail bus.
Asked if it was possible to create a few cells when the county builds its new building and expands the sheriff's office into the area that currently houses, the auditor, assessor, treasurer. If it could be done, islanders who have short sentences could stay on the island, making it easier for family to visit, the courts to hold hearings, etc. Krebs said it is something he will look into.
The recent rapes of a 12-year-old by a 24-year-old transient in Sunken Park and near the Port Parking lot have raised concerns by Town offficials and citizens.
Krebs says his deputies have increased patrols after the town asked for more. He believes the park in safe and that the perpetrator's actions were a "one-off".
Asked what motivates him, Krebs said, "I am passionate about prevention. I work closely with the Prevention Coalition. I'm a board member of the Prevention Coalition and as well as on the executive board for Safe San Juan. I have kids in the school system and I've had kids in our school system. I am very passionate when it comes to children and kids. Because really, when it comes to drugs and crime and domestic violence you're not going to get people like you and I change our ways. We are already set in our ways. You've got to effect change with children and preventing them from ever going down that road. Helping kids make healthy choices is very high on my personal priority list. So while my guys are out there dealing with the drugs and the drug problem, I'm on the other end advocating for children and people to make healthy choices. Not just for kids but for parents too. We know kids emulate their parents. Do it for your kids. I love kids, I love people. I want everyone to have happy productive lives."
More about Krebs including his endorsements can be read on his campaign's Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/RonKrebs4Sheriff/