Merced County sheriff announces return of special unit
On the heels of the hiring of seven new Merced County deputies, Sheriff Vern Warnke announced the return of special unit aimed at reducing gang-related and other crimes.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Tactical and Reconnaissance Team, which the sheriff described as “walking Sequoias” and “bad news” for gangs, will return as of Sept. 17, Warnke announced on Tuesday.
“They’ll be going after our nemesis on the streets - the gang problem we have along with everything that’s associated with it,” he said.
The special unit of four deputies and a K-9 overseen by Sgt. Clint Landrum hasn’t been in use in four years, because of a lack of staffing, according to Warnke. They will focus on “high-risk surveillance” and people breaking the law anywhere in the county, he said.
The sheriff has said staffing has grown since the county approved raises for deputies. Seven new deputies joined the Sheriff’s Office after being sworn in on Monday.
The Sheriff’s Office has gone to three 10-hour shifts for deputies, which includes some overlapping, according to Warnke. That means as many as 22 deputies and two supervisors could be on patrol during those overlapping hours, not including detectives or special units.
The department is up to about 130 deputies with openings for two more, he said.
“I have a problem most sheriffs don’t have, which is I have more people applying to be deputies than I have openings, which is a great problem to have,” Warnke said.