SAN ANTONIO – A proposed bill hopes to combat crime happening in the outer regions of Bexar County by adding more deputies, but taxpayers would pay the price.
HB2566 would require counties, like Bexar County, to employ at least 1.8 peace officers for every 1,000 people living in unincorporated areas.
Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert asked the budget office how much it would cost if the bill is passed.
Calvert told state legislators during Wednesday’s county affairs hearing, the county would need to hire 440 deputies with a price tag of $49.2 million.
KSAT has reached out to the budget office for clarification on this information and the budget office is working on a response.
People living in unincorporated areas of Bexar County, like Alamo Ranch, said they are seeing a rise in car break-ins, drug deals and other crimes. Priscilla Alarcon said she wants to move away from the area because of the criminal activity.
“I just hate the crime and the little that’s being done to prevent it,” Alarcon said.
Ron Tooke with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Sheriff Javier Salazar agree more deputies are needed. Both recognize the difficulties in recruiting and keeping deputies.
The sheriff’s office hasn’t been able to fill the openings it already has.
“It’s not like they passed this bill and tomorrow this happens. This is a five-year stretch,” Tooke said.
Commissioner Calvert is in opposition to the bill because it is an unfunded mandate. Calvert said during the hearing, the county would have to take resources from mental health programs, construction jobs and other county services to pay for more deputies.
“The state legislature has said that the local communities cannot reduce the law enforcement budget once you do it. So this is purposely and evenly matched to tie the hands of this court for four years,” Calvert said.
Rep. Steve Allison helped write the bill and said public safety is a priority.
“I have long been a supporter of local control and I understand the sensitivity of mandates. But the county left no other choice. You know, that they’re not doing their job,” Allison said.
Currently, the bill is in committee hearings and has not yet been taken to the floor for a vote.