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Low Crime Rate? No, Just Not Enough Police to Record It All

January 10, 1991|MIKE WARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

POMONA — The Police Department is so understaffed that the city crime rate looks relatively good--but that's just because officers don't have time to record all the crimes they should, Police Chief Lloyd Wood said this week.

Pomona police officers are so busy responding to calls that they don't have time to cruise the city looking for crime or to write reports on every incident they do encounter, Wood said in an interview. He said this is one reason Pomona ranked behind such cities as Santa Monica, Ontario and Santa Ana in the number of crimes reported per resident in 1989, the latest available FBI statistics.

Pomona in 1989 reported 77.89 major crimes for each 1,000 residents. This compared to 80.14 in Inglewood, 85.51 in Compton, 86.02 in Ontario, 87.65 in Santa Ana, 92.27 in Hawthorne and 95.33 in Santa Monica. The crimes classified as major range from theft to murder.

The comparisons were compiled as part the city's mid-year budget review submitted to the City Council on Tuesday by City Administrator Julio Fuentes. The report said 62 police officers would have to be added to the department's current complement of 170 to reduce the average response time from 28 minutes to 13.

But it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire extra police, and, Fuentes noted, the city's financial strength is deteriorating. In fact, he said, Pomona faces a $3.8-million deficit in fiscal 1991-92 unless spending is cut or taxes are raised.

In his report, Fuentes said the Police Department is receiving 214,000 calls a year for service--twice the number of calls handled by police in Ontario, a neighboring city of similar size, and far more than in such cities as Santa Monica, Compton and Inglewood.

Wood said the volume is so great that callers must wait an average of 28 minutes for a police unit to respond. That response time is slightly improved over the time a few years ago, but it is twice as long as it should be, Wood said.

Despite its favorable comparison to the other cities in the report, Wood noted, Pomona tends to have more serious crimes, particularly murders, than other cities in the San Gabriel Valley.

In 1989, Pomona reported 44 homicides, the most ever recorded in a San Gabriel Valley city. The number fell to 34 last year, but that was far more than the area's largest city, Pasadena, which reported 15 homicides. Pomona has about 4,000 fewer residents than Pasadena's 133,577.

If Pomona added more officers, Wood said, "I suspect that the first thing that would happen is that the number of reported crimes would go up."

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