BRADENTON — Three residents spoke at the county’s public hearing for the annual budget Tuesday evening, with two calling for more money for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve had housewives in the middle of the day bound and beaten in homes,” said Dr. Craig Trigueiro. “We’ve had a cheerleader shot and killed after a football game.”
Trigueiro, who is on the sheriff’s advisory board, said he wants commissioners to dip into reserves to add about $1 million to the sheriff’s office proposed budget of $92.5 million for 2009-10.
With a spike in homicides this year in Manatee County, commissioners discussed adding as much as $1.3 million from reserves.
“I’m not saying it would solve the problem, but it might be a kicker we could use,” said Commissioner Larry Bustle.
In June, commissioners told Sheriff Brad Steube he would be able to roll into next year an estimated $1.5 million saved from this year’s budget.
Steube said part of the money will be used to restore four positions at the jail that were previously cut out of the budget.
“I have a ton of priorities right now,” Steube said after the hearing. “One of them is the jail and the fact I need more corrections deputies. I’ve had several deputies attacked.”
The money saved from this year will also go toward paying for overtime, Steube said.
Over the past two years, the sheriff’s office has cut 30 positions, stretching the number of detectives available to investigate homicides and other crimes.
The sheriff’s office has investigated 22 homicides to date this year, with four detectives working full time on a homicide unit formed this summer.
Commissioner Joe McClash said he would like to see funding for preventive programs rather than more funding for public safety.
“The sheriff’s job is to catch criminals. Part of our role is to use money to prevent criminals,” he said.
The latest homicide was Friday night when 17-year-old Jasmine Thompson, a Bayshore High School student and cheerleader, was killed by a bullet fired by another teen, according to the sheriff’s office.
Commissioner Donna Hayes said she would like to see more deputies on the road in light of the recent violence.
“The community is very upset — especially with what happened this weekend,” she said.
“I think by allowing more deputies on the road, it gives the community more confidence.”
In October, four more detectives will be added to the homicide unit as part of a three-year, $1.6 million federal stimulus grant. Another four new positions will be filled to target gang activity.
Commissioners said they would consider allocating more money to the sheriff’s office in October after they meet with Steube again.
Beth Burger, Herald criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.