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UPDATE: Supervisors OK funding for unincorporated-area sheriff’s patrols

Posted: March 26, 2013 2:15 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2013 6:44 p.m.

Los Angeles County supervisors agreed Tuesday to fund more Sheriff’s Department patrols in unincorporated areas, a bid to close the gap between response times in county areas not inside cities and response time in areas within cities.

The county’s governing body voted to transfer $22 million to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol and county services budget to offset cuts made to patrol levels earlier this year.

The Sheriff’s Department cut overtime in January due to budget constraints. Before that, Sheriff Lee Baca has said, he used overtime to provide patrols in unincorporated areas.

Even before patrols were cut, a county audit showed Sheriff’s deputies took longer, on average, to respond to calls in unincorporated areas than in cities that contract services through the Sheriff’s Department.

That audit, released in late January, showed deputies took an average of about 5.8 minutes to respond to emergency calls in unincorporated areas compared to an average response time of 4.8 minutes in contract cities during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Response times to priority and routine calls were also longer in unincorporated areas, on average, according to the audit.

Unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley areas patrolled by sheriff’s deputies include Acton, Agua Dulce, Castaic, West Ranch, Stevenson Ranch, Val Verde and parts of Canyon Country and Saugus.

The vote to restore funding was 3-1-1, with Supervisor Gloria Molina opposing and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining.

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said the department will use the funds to restore unincorporated-area patrols to their previous levels, including areas in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We applaud the board for recognizing the need (for these funds),” Whitmore said. “And as the board wishes, the Sheriff’s Department’s intent and goal is to use that money for unincorporated areas.”

Supervisors also voted to use funds from state Proposition 172 — a voter-approved measure that raised the state’s sales tax by a half cent to fund public safety activities — to fully finance patrols in unincorporated areas.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich asked his fellow board members to go one step further and make county funds available to maintain patrol levels if Proposition 172 funds prove insufficient.

Antonovich said the board has an obligation to look out for the interests of those areas.

“We are the mayor and city council members of the unincorporated areas,” Antonovich said.

This action provides flexibility to ensure those patrols are not cut, said county Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka.

“Should Prop 172 funding fall below projections that we come back to the board with recommendations to ensure we maintain that funding level through other available sources,” Fujioka said.

Antonovich’s request was also approved unanimously.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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