New Winnebago County sheriff pushes new public safety plan - – Rockford’s News Leader

New Winnebago County sheriff pushes new public safety plan


The new sheriff in Winnebago County says he needs thousands of dollars to make the county safer.

Sheriff Gary Caruana proposed his $717,000 public safety plan to the county's public safety committee Wednesday night.

"I'm not coming to them just to come to them looking for dollars for no good reason," says Caruana. "I think they definitely see some critical issues here that I'm trying to take care of to alleviate and be proactive with it."

The sheriff says he wants to focus on three issues: the Winnebago County 911 Center, forming a Tactical Unit and more officer training.

"The staff at the 911 Center, they are getting burnt out and I can't have that," adds Caruana.

Right now there are 18 employees at the staffing center. The sheriff says that's not enough.

He says, as a result, dispatchers aren't able to answer calls as quickly as he'd like.

To fix that he's asking for $221,000 to hire six more employees.

Caruana is also asking for $326,000 to provide more deputy training.

"Because I feel the more you train when you are in that stressful environment, you are going to fall back on instincts of training," Caruana says.

Finally, the sheriff says he needs $170,000 to form a Tactical Unit.

That unit requires K9s, cars and other equipment.

The unit would be to concentrate on high-crime areas.

"We really have to make a difference," says Eli Nicolosi, Public Safety Committee vice chair and county board member. "I'm on board and hopefully we can get this done."

The public safety committee describes the sheriff's asking dollar amount as a hard pill to swallow, but a work in progress.

"Right now a huge issue in Winnebago County, and I think everyone can agree, is crime," adds Nicolosi. "And it is a big number and we don't take that lightly, but at the end of the day this is number one."

The sheriff's budget proposal now goes to the finance committee. The committee will have to figure out where to get the funding.

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