Monroe County adds 40 new positions to sheriff’s office; Announces inter-agency operations center

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Monroe County plans to increase funding for the sheriff’s office by $7 million, adding 40 new positions for deputies and other roles, and creating an inter-agency operations center to tackle crime.

County Executive Adam Bello and Sheriff Todd Baxter made the announcement on Monday, calling it the largest number of positions added to the road patrol division in decades. The county is also adding an investigator position who will focus solely on crimes committed by children.

Bello said the investment will help to tackle rising car thefts across the county, smash-and-grab burglaries, and gun violence. He said hiring will also provide officers with backup in times of need and allow for increased patrolling.

Currently, the sheriff’s office averages one deputy for every 3,600 residents, which is less than the national average. That has forced some deputies to cover more than 30 square miles on their own.

“One deputy patrolling 30 square miles at 3 o’clock in the morning is a pretty vulnerable thing,” Sheriff Baxter said. “Sometimes backup is miles and miles away and if the closest backup is involved in another incident, sometimes your backup could be 20 minutes away. That’s not safe for the officers. That’s not safe for the citizens.”

Monday’s announcement comes at a time when public safety has proven to be an issue voters are concerned about.

“Public safety is not a political issue, it’s a quality-of-life issue, it’s a safety issue because, at the end of the day, everybody in our community deserves to be safe in their own home,” Bello said.

His Republican opponent this fall doesn’t disagree but he’s not convinced adding more positions is going to help.

“We’re already sitting here with huge vacancies, salaries that are not competitive, that’s the reason you’re not hiring people and a situation where people are getting billed in their taxes for things they’re just not getting,” Mark Assini says.

When asked how he would help find new deputies, Assini said, “Well, there’s two things: 1) Do not bill people for services they do not get. If you know you’re not going to be able to hire somebody and this is a 3-year phenomenon. This is not something that happened in the last few months. Don’t overbill people, and 2) You have to make sure wages are competitive. You obviously are not competitive enough to bring in young people.”

Both Bello and Baxter disagree with Assini’s assertions, saying they’ve increased the rate of pay, relaxed residency restrictions and stepped up recruitment efforts through large, farther-reaching campaigns. Sheriff Baxter also explains that most of the current vaccines in the department are in the jail and court bureaus not road patrol.

The county is also creating a facility to improve communication between local law enforcement agencies called the Regional Investigative Operations Center. Bello said the facility will help to address crime that crosses between towns and city jurisdictions, including car thefts. The facility will incorporate state-of-the-art technology to monitor crime.

“A car could be stolen here, it’s involved in a smash and grab over there, a catalytic converter is stolen here by somebody who lives there and it’s all over, so creating this emergency operation center for law enforcement, it gives you that one-stop shop of places where law enforcement can all go to one place to help coordinate what those activities are,” Bello explains.

The Sheriff further explains, “This is taking real-time intelligence from our crime analysis center and making it operational at a moment’s notice. So, for example, the city has a camera room. They do great work with the camera room. It’s like a force multiplier. We don’t have a camera room throughout all this county and there’s no one connecting DPW to cameras from Henrietta, to school cameras in Hilton, with our cameras that might be out. There’s no connectivity so this will change that and give us real-time, live information.”