Grants Pass, Ore. -- Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said it hasn't been easy since budget cuts in 2012 left him with less than half of his personnel. That's why he's looking for a team of dedicated volunteers for a new program that would help the understaffed office with criminal investigations.
"I'm looking for the goodness of people's hearts to stand up and help us in the dire straights that we're in," Gilbertson said.
The volunteers would process property crimes, like burglaries and thefts. They would undergo the same training as a recruit officer at the academy level and would be led by retired and experienced law enforcement.
"There's a lot of property crimes that we're not dealing with," Gilbertson said. "We take the report for insurance purposes but there won't be any follow up investigations, and that's just not fair."
But there are questions about how the evidence collected by volunteers would stand up in court. Josephine County District Attorney Stephen Campbell said while Gilbertson is trying to think outside the box for solutions for the struggling department he has to think inside the jury box.
"We always have concerns about reducing the standards under which evidence is collected," Campbell said.
But he called the program workable because of the types of crimes the volunteers would be working on.
"My vision is they'll be on burglary scenes - looking for fingerprints, latent fingerprints, tool marks that were used to break through a door or window," Campbell said.
All pieces of evidence he said witnesses could collect themselves.
"Those things could be helpful so we're going to support the program as much as we can," Campbell said.
Gilbertson said this program is nothing new. They had a similar one two years ago, but it fizzled out. He said he hopes this time around is different.
"I'm looking for people who are truly dedicated and serious about the commitment," said Gilbertson.
Gilbertson wants to have the volunteer teams working by July. So far he has a handful of retired officers and a list of people interested in volunteering. He said this program would just be a temporary relief, and it definitely wouldn't supplant jobs.
"It's a band aid at best," he said.
A band aid he's hoping to use until the department comes up with a more permanent solution.