By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Murphys Park is getting a new accouterment. Along with its white gazebo, babbling creek and picnic tables, the park will soon have a sheriff's substation.
Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum said his staff is working hard to open the last of the county's seven substations by Thursday, May 15, when the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee begins.
The new office will be housed in a county-owned building, formerly occupied by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Downum said he has been hoping for a long time to open a substation in Murphys, and this year the Murphys Community Club, which manages the park, asked his office to take over the building, which has been vacant since 1999.
"They'd experienced some vandalism around the park, and they believe a greater presence of law enforcement there would help curtail that," he said.
Downum said the first substation in the county opened in 1995 in Valley Springs. Since then, substations have opened in Arnold, Copperopolis, Mokelumne Hill, Mountain Ranch, Valley Springs and West Point.
Downum said the substations give local residents a place to share information and make out reports. Each is managed by trained volunteers, he said, and deputies use the offices to meet with citizens, make phone calls, fill out reports and do other work.
"The primary focus (of substations) from our point of view is to give us a permanent presence in the community," he said. "It's also a major convenience for the community."
Downum said local crime and mischief dropped significantly when the Valley Springs and Mountain Ranch substations opened. He said the substations in Arnold and Valley Springs are the busiest.
"We try to keep them open during business hours five days a week," he said.
Murphys is unique in a couple of respects, he said.
"First, we already have a strong contingent of volunteers living in the Murphys area," he said, "and second, we're putting the office right where the complaints are coming from."