Sheriff’s Department officials are planning to beef up patrols throughout Los Angeles County after an audit showed a one-minute discrepancy in deputy-response time between unincorporated areas and contract cities.
Locally, the large coverage area somewhat skews the accuracy of response-time comparisons, said Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Paul Becker, but he noted larger, less-densely populated areas such as Val Verde would still have increased patrols available.
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While recent county budget cutbacks have made necessary overtime for more patrols unavailable, the station is diverting resources from statistical analysis in order to better target incident response, Becker said.
“I have to hit a compliance level within those city (limits) to fulfill the contract,” he said. “They hit a set amount, we bill them every month and we fulfill those contracts. So, obviously, when there’s a reduction in staffing levels, it’s going to fall on the unincorporated areas.”
Santa Clarita is a city that contracts service with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, while the unincorporated parts of the Santa Clarita Valley that are also served by the Sheriff’s Station including Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Tesoro Del Valle, Val Verde and Westridge.
It will mean two fewer deputies are available for crime-prevention analysis in the unincorporated “crime zones” in order to deal with a countywide mandate, he said.
Law enforcement in the Santa Clarita Valley is divided into seven zones, each with a deputy assigned to monitor crime reports — which are released weekly to the public via a service called Nixle — and to shift resources accordingly.
There are two zones in unincorporated areas, Stevenson Ranch/Westridge and Castaic/Val Verde, which will not have this monitoring, and instead, see increased patrols.
Becker also noted that areas like Stevenson Ranch and West Ranch don’t typically see the delay associated with being an unincorporated area, but road access to certain parts of the SCV like Acton that are very rural present practical obstacles to response time.
“The statistics that we have showed a longer response time in unincorporated areas versus contract cities,” said Jim Schneiderman, assistant auditor/controller for Los Angeles County. “And the sheriff has indicated that that’s due to things like the size of the patrol areas, road access and population density. We did look at the amount of money spent on unincorporated areas, and we looked at the number of service hours that are provided.”
A county representative for the Sheriff’s Department downplayed the discrepancy, but also noted that it was one that Sheriff Lee Baca was asking all stations to address.
“There’s a lot of areas that just takes this much longer to get there — it’s only a minute longer than the city,” said Steve Whitmore, Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
“(Baca) is aware of that frustration and he shares that frustration,” he said.
Sheriff’s Department officials organized an immediate response to the report, which included re-assigning 22 units from the gang enforcement team.
“(Baca) is in the process of identifying 90 more (deputies) that he would like to re-assign, as well,” he said.
Whitmore also said budgetary cutbacks played a role in the patrol discrepancy.
Countywide, the Los Angeles County Office of Auditor/Controller noted that the Sheriff’s Department budgeted $447 million for patrols, whereas the actual operating costs estimated by the controller’s report was $402 million.
Click here for a link to the auditor’s report