The Los Angeles city attorney's office said Wednesday that the latest cuts in its budget represent "a threat to public safety" and could result in fewer prosecutions of misdemeanor crimes.
"This office is at a tipping point," said Chief Deputy City Atty. Bill Carter, who made the remark about public safety.
The City Council shaved about $1 million from the city attorney's budget last week as part of about $18.2 million in city budget cuts. The budgets of the City Council and mayor's office also were cut by about $1 million.
Los Angeles has imposed layoffs, service reductions and furloughs in a bid to close its massive budget gap. More furloughs and service cuts remain a possibility. And the city faces another $360-million shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
The city attorney's office, which has about 200 prosecutors, has seen its budget reduced by almost a third since mid-2009, Carter said.
The office of City Atty. Carmen Trutanich defends the city in civil claims and prosecutes misdemeanor crimes — from sexual assaults and thefts to graffiti and traffic cases. The office prosecutes between 65,000 and 75,000 cases a year, Carter said. Staff members are looking at whether the office can handle so many cases with the budget cuts, Carter said.
Already, he said, the office is moving a number of prosecutors downtown from offices in Chatsworth, Hollywood and San Pedro. Prosecutors met Wednesday with LAPD commanders to discuss "logistics," said Carter, who added his concern that criminals could be "emboldened" if they believe prosecution was less likely.
"We want to be sure we prioritize those cases in which suspects need to be held and cases filed," Carter said. "We understand that you can't let the little things fester."