With homicides up by more than 50% in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County last year, the response time of deputy sheriffs to priority calls became "unacceptably high," Sheriff John Duffy said Tuesday.
At the same time, he said, it took longer for dispatchers to answer emergency 911 calls and overcrowding at the county's jails again "reached a crisis stage."
Painting a bleak picture of how budget constraints have impaired his department's effectiveness, Duffy told the county Board of Supervisors that various problems stemming from understaffing have "made it tougher for us . . . and easier for criminals."
The Sheriff Department's manpower levels have failed to keep pace with the county's population growth, Duffy said. To rectify that, he said, his department's $75-million annual budget would have to be increased by about 20%, or $15 million.
"The short answer is that growth adds population and population adds crime," Duffy said. "That creates a bigger workload that we need more people to handle."
During the last quarter of 1986, deputy patrol units' response time to priority calls, including life-threatening situations and felonies in progress, increased to an average of 11.7 minutes--one minute longer than in the same quarter a year earlier. The average response time for non-priority calls was 20.9 minutes from October-December, 1986, compared to 19 minutes for same period in 1985.
Daffy said he will ask for funding for 71 additional deputies in the next fiscal year. Added to the existing 1,107 sworn positions, that would enable the Sheriff's Department "to start getting close to" its target of having one patrol unit for every 10,000 residents, Duffy said.
In his quarterly report to the supervisors, Duffy noted that there were 67 homicides in the unincorporated areas of the county in 1986, an increase of 23 killings, or 52%, over the previous year. That increase, Duffy said, illustrates the need to hire additional homicide investigators.
Overall, Duffy said a $15-million increase in his department's budget is needed "to do the things we ought to be doing."
While the supervisors reacted sympathetically Tuesday, they made no commitments.
Duffy also reported Tuesday that the jail overcrowding problem worsened during the final three months of 1986.
The average daily number of inmates in the county's jails during that period was 3,128, compared to 2,478 the year before, Duffy said.
The overcrowding will continue, Duffy said, until new jails are built. In the meantime, he said, he has no choice but to release persons arrested for offenses for which they otherwise would be jailed until they posted bail.