'We reached a point where we didn’t have a choice': Snohomish Sheriff addresses cutbacks at town hall meeting

About150 people packed into the Marysville Opera House on Wednesday for a public safety meeting led by Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney and other county officials.

This meeting comes just days after the sheriff announced cuts to several specialty units within the office, due to staff shortages.

Officials with the sheriff’s office tell FOX 13 News they have 27 deputy vacancies right now. So far this year, 30 deputies have quit or retired. That number is higher than the average number of deputies that usually leave in a full year, staff tell us.

Due to these shortages, the sheriff announced he is temporarily cutting the county’s K9 unit, the Office of Neighborhoods which works homeless outreach, and its Directed Patrols proactive police unit. These resources will now go toward beat patrols and 911 response.

For some people the change is concerning.

"None of this is going to get better by taking things away we have to continue to move forward, or we’re going to be in big trouble," said Greg Sheehan.

Sheehan lives in Snohomish County. He says he came to the meeting to hear how county officials plan to deal with the crime issues in the community.

Snohomish County Sheriff cut back on services due to staff shortages

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday they have to scale back specialty units due to staffing shortages.

"We’re seeing quite an explosion as far as drugs are concerned, etc., the crime spiking the way it has," he said.

Sheriff Fortney says the cutbacks are heartbreaking, but the only option right now. 

"Right now, safety trumps everything, and we reached a point where we didn’t have a choice," said Fortney.

Fortney, as well as Snohomish Councilmember Sam Low, Councilmember Nate Nehring and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Matt Baldock answered questions from people like Sheehan throughout Wednesday night at the town hall meeting.

Fortney says the work will still get done, despite these specialty units being temporarily cut.

"We’re trying to make the best of a really tough situation in Snohomish County, at least in the sheriff's office, right now. And so, we'll probably find some middle ground; those service aren’t going away," said Fortney.

Sheriff Fortney told FOX 13 News he is meeting with the county’s social workers, who worked alongside deputies in the homeless outreach unit, in an effort to incorporate them back into working with deputies.

He says the hope is to give all deputies access to the social workers’ services while on patrol, when there is a need.