"I don't want to pay more taxes. But the question is whether we are going to fight back or not. This is about starting a discussion on a local tax to combat crime with local control and accountability to taxpayers."

San Bernardino County Supervisors Chairman Robert Lovingood, in a dire plea Monday, boldly called for consideration of a voter-approved sales tax earmarked for public safety at a time when he suggested residents were "getting fed up" with the recent crime surge.

Lovingood is expected to officially outline the proposal — including whether a ballot measure would recommend a quarter-cent, half-cent or three-quarter-cent sales tax — in an opinion piece later this week.

"Are taxes already too high? Absolutely," he said in a statement Monday. "I don't want to pay more taxes. But the question is whether we are going to fight back or not. This is about starting a discussion on a local tax to combat crime with local control and accountability to taxpayers.

"As a community, we need to tell the crooks that San Bernardino County is cracking down with more law enforcement officers and jail space."

The call to action comes as violent crime has risen over 20 percent in the High Desert in the first six months of 2017.

According to his office, a quarter-cent sales tax alone would generate an estimated $81 million yearly, which Lovingood said would be used to add more sheriff's deputies and prosecutors and to finish opening a new county jail.

Lovingood excoriated criminal justice reforms in recent years, as other local government and law enforcement officials have, which have encumbered local police forces and softened sentences for certain crimes.

"Unfortunately, Sacramento policies are creating these problems," he said. "Until voters change the state's soft-on-crime stance, we in San Bernardino County will need to create our own solutions. If we don't, we are going to lose the battle."

Lolita Harper, spokeswoman for the county's Safety Employees Benefit Association, which has long advocated for public safety as a top priority, spoke generally about the idea of such a tax because the details were not yet known.

"We agree this county needs relief from the dangerous effects of the soft-on-crime legislation of late," Harper said, "whether that means an additional sales tax, or finding monies in the healthy county budget."

She added that SEBA's support of a tax would be tied to the insistence that funds were earmarked specifically for public safety.

"The monies should not be eligible for creative accounting to offset the general fund or to reduce the current public safety budget," she said. "This would need to be a legitimate increase for law enforcement;  and not just for tools and supplies. The funds would need to be dedicated to hiring, training and retaining the most valuable law enforcement resource: the people who do the job."

The Daily Press reached out to the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, which has often fought governmental agencies seeking tax increases, but had not heard back by Monday evening.

Talks about a countywide tax would coincide with the city of Victorville's proposed half-cent sales tax already headed to a special election in November. That tax, technically a transactions and use tax, is projected to generate about $8.4 million yearly to bolster fire and police services as contract costs rise.

Lovingood's office Monday appeared to back the Victorville City Council's support of their city's ballot measure. And that tax, if passed by two-thirds majority, would increase the city's current 7.75 percent sales tax rate to 8.25.

County officials in June authorized $1 million more to fund crime sweeps in the High Desert for this fiscal year, a timely boost that was championed by Lovingood, who also acknowledged during the Board of Supervisors meeting that crime issues had struck home.

"My sense is that San Bernardino County residents are getting fed up with crime," he said Monday, "and are ready for solutions."

Shea Johnson can be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.