Cuts underway in Contra Costa Co.

April 1, 2009 12:47:37 PM PDT
Across the board cuts in services are coming to Contra Costa County. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a budget that cuts $50 million from county programs including law enforcement. SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Budget cuts are the talk of the town. Everything from county healthcare programs to agriculture extension is being cut, but its proposed cuts to public safety that dominated the conversation.

The sheriff says he's going to have to cut 56 deputies from a force of 600.

"Reduction in service is an increase in the level of danger to those people that are paying the bills," said Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf

The district attorney told ABC7 some crimes won't be prosecuted.

"When you look at the level of public safety that's involved in any misdemeanor crime, you have to priorities things and obviously property crimes are going to fall further down the list," said District Attorney Robert Kochly.

At the Melange Boutique, owner Heidi Schooley is worried the district attorney won't prosecute shoplifting, and once that word gets out her store will be a target.

"In these tough economical times, I mean, the kind of stuff I sell brand new clothing retail, accessories, shoes that's the stuff people love to steal," said Schooley.

"People are already talking about the fact that you might now prosecute shoplifting, and we've talked to a number of people who are worried about that," said ABC7's Mark Matthews.

"Certainly, and they have good reason to worry about that if that comes to pass," said Kochly.

"And he says you have good reason to worry about that," said Mark Matthews. "Your response is to him?" asked Mark Matthews.

"Well, that really upsets me," said Schooley.

But down the street at Fred Morse's furniture store, he tells me this is nothing new.

"I hate to tell you that but that's not a new policy," said Morse.

Morse says the D.A. and the Sheriff's Department are famous for crying wolf over cuts in service.

"This happens every time the contract comes up. I seriously doubt whether they're going to lose those positions," said Morse.

But at the County Supervisors meeting this morning, there were enough believers to fill the room and the supervisors contemplated cuts to every program and department.

"The people have to understand that this is really a desperate time for the county nobody likes to do these things that we have to do but the options are very minimal," said County Administrator David Twa.

Law enforcement sources told ABC7 the sheriff has been adept at hiding the effects of previous budget cuts.

The district attorney hasn't always prosecuted things like shop lifting and minor vandalism, but the people of Contra Costa Country should think that this is just business as usual.

The cuts being contemplated now can be felt not only in the country departments, but out on Main Street too.

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