The Santa Barbara County’s Sheriff’s Department is playing host to the state’s sheriffs this week for the annual California State Sheriffs Association conference, and Sheriff Bill Brown welcomed the group on Monday during opening ceremonies at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

Of the state’s 58 sheriffs, 42 have shown up, some with their undersheriffs, Chief Deputy of Administration Jim Peterson said.

Board of Supervisors chairwoman and Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf thanked Brown for his department’s “unwavering commitment” to public service, including managing the County Jail, working with other departments, conducting homicide investigations and “watching our backs” at public meetings.

Brown credited Wolf, Supervisors Doreen Farr and Salud Carbajal, and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, who also attended Monday’s ceremony, as being leaders who “get it” when it comes to the importance of law enforcement.

He also had a member of the Sheriff Pipe and Drum Corps play a stanza of “Amazing Grace” in honor of former District Attorney Christie Stanley, who died Sunday at age 61 after a long battle with lung cancer. Brown said she carried herself with grace and dignity,and made many important contributions to the county during her tenure.

Judge Frank Ochoa of California Superior Court spoke about the need for interdepartmental collaborations, and joked that he had never filled in for an attorney general before — as gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown had been scheduled to speak to the group.

He said there has been a 213 percent increase in gang-related crimes in the county in the past five years, and a 588 percent increase in murders and attempted murders in the past decade.

The United States also has the most people per thousand behind bars — at 715 — which means a big percentage of dangerous members of society is behind bars. But Ochoa said the community could do a lot more collectively in terms of intervention and prevention.

Ochoa once presided over the drug court, which was created under former Santa Barbara Police Chief Richard Breza. Tired of the cycle of arresting, booking, releasing and often re-arresting public inebriants, Breza came up with a sobering center and drug court so chronic offenders could be arraigned with the option of being released into treatment or receive a hefty sentence. The collaboration has produced some amazing success stories, he said, as have gang intervention programs, the Sheriff’s Drug Treatment Program and other programs.

He said everyone has a stake in creating collaborative networking efforts, including law enforcement, elected officials, education officials, the media and the public.

As to coordination with the fourth estate, Ochoa said law enforcement should try to be open with the media, as they can help with a collaborative community network. He has a personal and professional connection to that particular topic, as his wife is an anchor with KEYT. He said some find it amusing when the lead story stems from a case going through his department.

During the next few days, the 116th conference, dubbed “Return to Reagan Country,” will include a trade show, golf tournament, pistol match,and legal updates and training.

In addition to discussing solutions to county and state problems, trade shows will feature technology and services vendors.

The latest technological advance adopted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department was a dual sensor camera donated by FLIR Systems Inc., which features thermal imaging technology to help the aviation unit see farther at night from the department’s helicopters.

The California State Sheriffs Association was formed in 1894 and includes state sheriffs and other law enforcement personnel. Its legislative arm is active in Sacramento.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at