Coos Sheriff: 'Many of my officers are going elsewhere because they can make more money'
COQUILLE, Ore. -- The Coos County Sheriff's Office is facing challenges curbing crime in the community.
One major problem is a lack of staffing at the Coos County Jail, which reduced bed space two years ago due to a staffing shortage.
Officials say it led to overcrowding and early releases.
The sheriff's office has been on the search for applicants to increase their staff.
"The problem we have now with getting enough staffing is that our pay level is so low,” says Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni. “Many of my officers, especially the senior ones, are going elsewhere because they can make more money."
Statewide, Coos County has the third lowest rate of pay for deputies, according to Coos County Commissioner John Sweet.
"We currently have money in our budget to fund two pods in our jail,” Sweet says. “That would be 98 beds, I believe. Unfortunately, because of manpower restrictions, we're only able to operate one pod; that's 49 beds."
Officials say those 49 beds at the jail are maxed out daily, meaning offenders are often booked and then released shortly after, which causes a problem for public safety.
"In our area it's horrible, with car thieves, gasoline, everything; nothing is safe at all at night,” says Coos County resident Gene Svatos. “We're afraid in this area that people are going to start shooting; that's what we're afraid of. It just comes to that point."
County officials say they are aware of the problem and working on a solution.
"What we're currently in the process of doing is negotiating with the unions to try to raise the wages for starting deputies so we can get more deputies on board," says Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins.
“As we go through the budget process,” Sweet adds, “we'll do our very best to prioritize getting our deputy workforce back up to level so we can have more jail beds."