To a standing-room-only crowd, five candidates for Carson City sheriff answered questions on drugs, gangs and their top priorities for law enforcement during a League of Women Voters forum Thursday night.
They agreed drugs, particularly methamphetamine, are a larger problem in Carson City than most places.
"The last thing we need is some knucklehead dealing dope to our kids," said Deputy Bob Guimont, adding drug arrests make up 85 percent of all arrests in Carson City. "I plan on making this a very uncomfortable place for (dealers)."
Guimont said through education programs in the schools and increased patrols of problem areas, he hopes to reduce the drug trade.
Candidate Wayne Fazzino wants to use residents as a means for collecting information on suspected drug houses, using the homes of those reporting drug activity as a potential site for surveillance of suspected illegal activity. "Drugs are a societal issue," said Ken Furlong, "Methamphetamine being the most detrimental to the human body and destruction of family."
Furlong said he has a three-step plan to fight the war on drugs in Carson City: Targeting drug dealers, targeting users and educating children.
Detective Richard Mendoza agreed, saying drug education in the schools would be a step toward prevention.
Chief Deputy Scott Burau said he would attack dealers in their pockets and catalog repeat offenders.
With more than 100 people in attendance at the Community Center and more watching on Carson Access Television, League members took written questions from the audience and gave each candidate a minute or two to respond.
One asked, "Does Carson City have gangs?"
"If there is one gang member in Carson City, then we have a gang problem," Furlong said. He said he'd attempt to identify all gang members in the city, saying gangs is one of Carson City's biggest problems.
Guimont said gang members need to be hit at the knees.
"I wouldn't have a problem sitting down with these gangs and letting them know the rules and regulations in Carson City," he said, even if it meant starting with the Hells Angels.
Mendoza said there are 384 known members in four gangs in Carson. He wants deputies assigned specifically to gangs and "hopefully chase these guys into another county."
Burau said the department already has comprehensive intelligence gathered on local gangs and its members.
With that information, he said, "You can gather correct intelligence and when (gang members) do break the law, you can ensure they feel the full force of the law."
Fazzino said educating parents of the warning signs of gang involvement would help stop problems before they start.
All five candidates said they believe the Sheriff's Department's $11 million budget is adequate, although most offered proposals to augment it with volunteers and grants.
Asked what would be the first items on their agendas if elected, Furlong said he would "adopt every school in Carson City."
"I believe that is our future. More than 20 percent of the arrests made are of children 15 to 25 years of age. We can't possibly overlook that. We must provide some education to our kids to help them in the positive decision making process."
Guimont said he would quickly implement a senior volunteer program.
"The sooner I get that up and running, the better," he said, adding the volunteers would be able to respond to routine calls of vehicle burglaries and damaged mailboxes, freeing up patrol deputies for more serious calls. "We can't redirect those resources fully until those volunteers are in place."
Mendoza said his first focus would be more aggressive traffic enforcement and gangs.
"I would start the gang task force immediately and put them on the street," he said.
Burau said his first focus would be training, also mentioning volunteers and an "adopt a police car" program.
"Better trained, better focused officers are going to minimize the liability in this community," he said. "We're going to hit the ground running with the funding we have available."
Fazzino said on his first day he would address each officer.
"The first thing I would do is walk into the building with a policy and procedures manual," something he said is lacking in the department now. "Each officer would be issued an ID card and read a code of ethics. Then I will ask each deputy 'Will you be honest in all your dealings?' Now I'm addressing each and every member as human being. I'm trusting them and they are trusting me. "