South Valley law enforcement to join forces

VISALIA, Calif.

A pipe bomb explosion at Hanford High School two years ago. A suspected pipe bomb found in this quiet residential neighborhood in southwest Visalia last year. And just last week, a bomb threat at the Tulare County Courthouse each of these dangerous situations, and many others are diffused by the Visalia Police or Tulare County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad. Now, those two separate units are considering joining forces.

Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas said, "It saves huge on capital resources just to replace the truck and trailer that hauls suspicious devices that we pick up is over $400,000."

Bomb-detecting robots like this one can cost up to $300,000 each. By consolidating, the two agencies could cut down on response time, save money on overtime costs and make them eligible for federal homeland security funds.

Chief Colleen Mestas said, "Just you know one mile up the road is the sheriff's dept and we're here ... to duplicate that would cost millions of dollars and it just doesn't make economic sense."

Wittman says combining dispatches could be next on the list. Both agencies say they already work together on auto theft and gang task forces.

Bill Wittman said, "We're all limited by our resources these days we can no longer do the job by ourselves. We're going to have to look to the future to consolidate everything we can and this is the first step."

The consolidation will be discussed at Monday night's Visalia city council meeting and may also be voted on at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

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