One of the biggest pumpkin patch festivals outside of Half Moon Bay has a security issue. Organizers at Uesugi Farms, just outside of Morgan Hill, want to hire uniformed Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies to stand guard, but the sheriff's office said no.
The Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park is just a few miles from where a mass shooting occurred in Gilroy in July, and organizers are concerned about security as the park gets ready to open Saturday. About 45,000 people are expected to visit the festival each weekend up until Halloween.
The festival organizer, who did not wish to be identified, has offered to pay for the uniformed deputies but that offer was declined.
"We reached out to the Santa Clara County sheriff multiple times, and they’re not willing to work with us," the organizer said. "And I don’t understand why."
There were several sheriff's deputies at the county fair days after the mass shooting in Gilroy. But sources told NBC Bay Area the sheriff does not allow her deputies to work what are called "pay jobs," overtime assignments "in uniform" at festivals and events.
When asked about this claim, the sheriff's office responded with a statement reading: "The sheriff’s office is committed to public safety, and we are continuously exploring various ways to provide supplemental law enforcement services to the community."
The sheriff’’s office said it will have added patrols around the event. But that’s of little comfort to the organizers and visitors, who see uniformed officers on location as a deterrent.
"It's disheartening to me because ... I’m trying to protect their constituents, their community," the organizer said.
Veronica Heredia Silva plans on visiting the pumpkin park and is a bit worried about the lack of security.
"Well, yeah, that would be a concern," Heredia Silva said. "We want to feel safe. We don’t want to go out any more. I feel unsafe."
The event usually hires armed undercover officers. But this year, with the public so afraid of shootings, the festival wants to pay for the uniformed guards, with the right gear to respond to a potential attack.
The organizer said she called other nearby departments for help, but they told her they cannot come into Santa Clara County jurisdiction.
The Gilroy Police Department told NBC Bay Area it's more of a staffing issue.
The sheriff's office said staffing the event is still under consideration, but that was news to the organizers.