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Budget Cuts Blamed For Deputy Response Delays

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(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If you have an emergency, you may want to think about calling a minute or two ahead of time.

A new report  shows average response times for Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in August was approximately one minute longer than it was in the same month last year.

Financial Woes Behind Slow Sheriff’s Response?

In 2009, the average response time for deputies handling 911 calls was
4.9 minutes. The month after budget cuts began, the average climbed to 5.5
minutes, and last month it rose to almost 6 minutes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The department moved to cut its budget by $128 million six months ago,  but
Sheriff Lee Baca cautioned against linking  the increased response times to budget cuts.

“There are many anomalies that can affect this issue. For example there
are several months where we have heat related issues … increased injuries
on bikes and traffic crashes during those months and people drink more. So all
of that combines to increase the numbers of calls we get.”

Baca says that almost half of the department’s budget cuts affect overtime.

“We have streamlined and consolidated our operations and done major
rescheduling to cut overtime.” he said. “I’ve done that instead of laying
people off.”

One change includes orders for command staff to work holidays. “Here
it is Labor Day and I’m working.,” he said.

“Seconds count,” Capt. Mike Parker says. “When people
call for help, they want us to be there right away. There have been lots of
calls where I was really glad I was there when I was, and not five seconds
later.”

Budget cuts have contributed to a growing backlog in the collection and
analysis of fingerprint evidence, The Times reported.

In another result of cost cutting, 200 inmates were recently released
early from jail, the newspaper reported. Time spent in custody for male
misdemeanor offenders has dropped from 80 percent of their sentences to 35
percent.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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