The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has received a $117,200 state grant to help fight rural crime.

The grant will help pay for a full-time deputy to patrol rural areas and investigate crimes affecting the ranching and agricultural industries, according to department spokesman Drew Sugars.

In 2010, the Sheriff’s Department investigated 132 rural crimes that included vandalism, and the theft of farm equipment, supplies, live stock and various ag property, Sugars said. The combined property loss was more than $577,000 that year, of which $383,351 has been recovered.

Through nearly all of 2011, the Sheriff’s Department has investigated 116 rural crimes for a combined property loss value of $502, 208, of which $109,210 has been recovered, according to Sugars.

The Sheriff’s Department had eliminated the rural deputy position at the beginning of this fiscal year when the grant money that previously funded the position appeared to have been lost under statewide budget cuts, but the state recently reinstated the grant money.

Sugars said the funds are for fiscal year 2011-12, but that any unused grant funds may be used in fiscal year 2012-13.

“I am very pleased that funding has been secured to maintain this important program,” Sheriff Bill Brown said. “Deputy Sheriff John McCarthy, who leads our Rural Crime Program, and several other deputies who have been collaterally trained continue to do a superb job in investigating these unique crimes. They have been successful not only in apprehending criminals who victimize our farmers, ranchers and others who live in rural areas, but more importantly they work directly with members of our agricultural community to prevent many such crimes from occurring in the first place.”

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