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Sheriff to address public at Valley Grange forum

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Early next week, Sonoma Valley residents will get a chance to pose questions to the region’s top law enforcement officer in a public forum.

Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas has accepted an invitation to speak and answer questions during a free public meeting to be held Tuesday, Feb. 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, 18627 Highway 12, in Boyes Hot Springs.

Freitas said he considers it “one of my job descriptions” to attend such events and to be “educating people on what the Sheriff’s Office does.”

“I get all different types of questions,” he said on Wednesday. “I try to be as prepared as I can be.”

Freitas said he would keep in mind the Sonoma debate over tasting rooms and how they may be affecting DUI numbers in the Valley. Opponents of tasting rooms say they lead to increased cases of drunk driving, but proponents say that with more people walking to tasting rooms around the Plaza, drunk driving is down.

DUI enforcement is handled mainly by the California Highway Patrol, however, “I will be coming out there next week with statistics,” Freitas said.

Another issue on the sheriff’s radar is AB 109. Also known as “Realignment,” this California law was enacted in 2011 to relieve overcrowding in the state prison system. It does this by shifting the burden of incarcerating, tracking and treating lower-level criminals from the state to the counties.

The result has been profound, Freitas said. “Realignment is the single biggest thing to happen to public safety in my 30 years in law enforcement.”

The meeting, which is free and open to everyone, will be moderated by Gina Cuclis, a Sonoma County Board of Education trustee. Following a presentation by the sheriff, Cuclis plans to dedicate most of the meeting to questions from audience members.

For more information, contact Cuclis at ginacuclis@gmail.com.