Eric Taylor was successful in securing his job as sheriff-coroner in the June 7 election by winning 65.7% of votes cast in the race. His opponent, Juan Guevara, received 34.3% of the vote. He was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2021 following sheriff Darren Thompson’s retirement.
Now that he is in place for the next four years, BenitoLink asked him about his hopes for the department and ideas on how to best serve the county. He addressed the department’s plans, rising gang crime in the county and the scourge of fentanyl deaths.
BenitoLink: What are the major types of crime in order of impact on the community and what are some of the possible methods or solutions to reducing them?
Taylor: Property crimes are the most likely crimes our community members will experience. I have taken coroner duties away from our detectives so they can focus on preventing these crimes and following up when they do happen. I am also working at the state level to restore penalties for property crimes so we can interrupt behavior and get people into treatment so they don’t reoffend.
However, our community does need to be concerned about the rise in gang crime and acts of violence. I demand that my staff police the entire community proactively and efficiently. The best way to prevent crime is to interrupt behavior. I am also bringing new training opportunities to our community so our staff can be well educated in trends, tactics and solutions.
We keep hearing about the increase in overdoses nationally due to fentanyl. How pervasive is it in the county now and what is law enforcement in general, and your office in particular, doing about it?
Fentanyl is a real danger. It is not being sensationalized. I am one of the founding members of our opioid task force. We have been educating our community about this for the last couple years. We are in the schools, presenting to the community, and are teaching in our jail. Our state is granting monies to combat fentanyl possession and distribution.
The California State Sheriff’s Association is lobbying to get enhancements for fentanyl possession and distribution, to include murder charges for those who continue to sell fentanyl that cause death. Our office is utilizing our task force, and partner task forces to interrupt the trade and use of fentanyl.
What do you want to concentrate on now that will take a few years to accomplish?
I will continue to rebuild our office to get back to the staffing levels we had in 2010. We are still far behind where we were 12 years ago. We need to increase our staffing levels in order to provide quality service to all corners of our beautiful county.
I will also continue to implement new and innovative community policing programs such as Agua Con La Chota and our Responsibility Area Program. Lastly, we will continue to recruit and hire local talent that is diverse and reflective of our community.
Where do you want the department to be, personnel and service wise, and how will you go about accomplishing this?
I want to staff a swing shift so there are no gaps in coverage during the day. I want our staffing levels in the jail to increase so we can take full advantage of our new rehabilitation facility along with robust programs to reduce recidivism.
I have separated our coroner division from our investigations division in order to have a group of detectives that focus on crime follow up, covert investigations, and also case preparation for prosecution.
What is your office doing about mental health in the jail and working with the county?
I have a great relationship with the leadership in Behavioral Health. They have always answered the call when I have asked them to. We also have an early warning system in the jail that will alert us to suicidal ideations of those in our custody. That is something new for our county that was implemented in the last year. Last, we are working with our medical provider, Wellpath, to increase psychiatric services in our jail. When you couple this with our new programs in our custody bureau, the future’s looking brighter for those in our care and custody.
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