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SANDAG: San Diego County Arrests Have Decreased Along With Public Safety Spending

November 18, 2013 1:31 p.m.


Chief William Lansdowne, San Diego Police Department

Cynthia Burke, Ph.D., SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research

Related Story: SANDAG: San Diego County Arrests Have Decreased Along With Public Safety Spending


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just as the city of San Diego approved a plan to restore some of the police budget cuts that has taken place in recent years and is sent back study finds that with public safety budgets down the number of arrests in San Diego County has gone down. The statistics indicate that crime Friday is a complex endeavor and that law enforcement agencies around the county have had to recapture budgets. I'd like to welcome my guest San Diego police chief William Lansdowne and Chief Landsdowne, welcome

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: Thank you. It's always a pleasure to be here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dr. Cynthia Burke is Sandag director of criminal justice research and Cynthia welcome back to the program.

CYNTHIA BURKE: Thank you for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In your study Cynthia, you looked at cuts to public safety spending in recent years. Can you give us an idea of how much of a hit police agencies around the county have taken?

CYNTHIA BURKE: You know, they have had many cuts and we had about 8% drop in you look at the per capita spending across individuals went for about 290 in FY09 went to the height of the spending to 270 most recently but I think when you look at the number of unfilled positions that were budgeted we had hundred 50 across the region most of those with the San Diego Police Department last year when you consider we have fewer sworn officers per 1000 population that the rest of the country the countries averages 2.4 we are at 1.29. When you think about the crime rate we have a very low crime rate and I think it really speaks to how much our police and sheriff do with the resources they have the fact that they keep getting so much water from a stone.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you study which police forces in San Diego County have taken the biggest hit?

CYNTHIA BURKE: We looked over time and there spent pretty much consistent trend over time some agencies I would definitely say this in the Police Department has been one of the hardest hit. We look at per capita spending, we look at the percentage of spending over time that most of the agencies, 80% of them have had the sworn officer population ratio is smaller now than it was five years ago.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, this index study, Chief Lansdowne, makes the point that overall countywide we have 1.29 officers per 1000 residents and the national average is 2.4. How many police officers do the city of San Diego have per 1000 residents?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: We looked at the numbers we are a little over 1.4 right in the city of San Diego would certainly create some issues for us but we've been very I believe integrated if it were about six or something some of those issues in better utilizing the resources to keep the crime rates lower.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does that compare to the ratio of a few years ago before the police force to call these cuts?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: Let me put it in perspective. If we look in the past I believe the 3 to 13 we've lost just about 308 police officers and one (inaudible) civilians and simply at both (inaudible) on us to keep the level of costs which are essentially the same as they were before.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Remind us of some of the civilian positions that have been cut, because I believe people focus so much perhaps rightly so the officers themselves but what about some of the civilian positions that have been so greatly reduced with budget cuts?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: The positions we lost are police aides that work with the detective division and help set the cases up for prosecution. We lost the police service offers they would handle calls and take records reports to go to more serious calls or violent calls and recently lost the parking neutral persons who did not departments and those that wants to make sure there is space to park on the streets.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Cynthia, the Sandag report tells us that the number of arrests are down but does that relate to the number of crimes has gone down or does that simply mean there aren't enough police the left to make the arrests that are needed?

CYNTHIA BURKE: We came out with two different reports, the arrest report and crime report Sandag supports the claim report says that crime has been put down historic lows recently it's been up. Those are crimes captured by law enforcement in a standardized way. Arrest reflect law enforcement response so yes it does reflect law enforcement ability to go after the crime a crime that occurred in one your interest could occur in another year so they do not track 1 to 1 and also the arrest reports include a lot of crimes to settle we don't have for the crimes he talked about aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, theft when you look at the rest of us, dress we have in San Diego region is misdemeanor driving under the influence so when you look at the arrest numbers there's a lot of other offenses that are not in the crime statistics. So it's not comparing apples to apples it does take other things to affect the mistrusted think we saw was traditionally juveniles represent a smaller number of arrested but they've also always had a higher arrest rate and the fact that we had a switch for the first time the adult arrest rate was higher than the juvenile arrests both in San Diego County as well as other large counties across the state I think that reflects law enforcement doing what they've already indicated they've had to make decisions about where they're going to have fewer resources they're going to target going after the most serious offenders that they can and also from my work with them and the Chief could speak more about this, making sure that diversion opportunities are available for juveniles I think it's a good thing that the juvenile arrest rate is going down.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How do you make those choices, Chief Lansdowne, to shift your priorities are shifted resources when you see a budget crunch like that because obviously one would imagine that one could imagine everything that police force does is important. So how do you make those decisions to prioritize?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: First of all nobody wanted to cut. If you look at the Council how we are going to manage there are certain financial issues we had to deal with so as we made that cuts we took a chance to look at it to determine what the priorities are the number one priority for us in the San Diego Police Department is to get to calls quickly reduce the potential loss of life calls life or serious injury of five to do that we had to slow the responses down to some of the property crimes were there's a potential for loss of life. So we started to reprogram a little bit. We use technology and that officers where we predict crime will occur but also when we do that it leaves large areas of the city unprotected and that begins to increase our response time if there was a major urgency. I think we've done very well managing our resources but we are certainly starting to see the effect because crime has been coming down for a long time it's just the last two years we are we are seeing this uptick in crime and we certainly are concerned about it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you both about that because for most of the downturn the public safety budgets are cut the crime rate in San Diego County continued to go down and that could lead to the idea that maybe we don't need to spend so much on on force. I'd like to get your response, let me start with you, Chief Lansdowne.

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: I can tell you is that across the County of San Diego whether the Sheriff's Department of Carlsbad or Chula Vista certainly the San Diego Police Department we've become very efficient in managing resources in be able to manage the crime that shows up in the city because we work so well together. The we've used all of those new technologies now we are starting to see the crime beginning to grow in there really is a connection between number of officers the have and the ability to get the calls quickly and be able to manage and control crime.


CYNTHIA BURKE: Adding to what the chief said I think you cannot ignore the fact we are a border community and I think it's amazing we don't have more spillover violence if you consider me a recorder for drug trafficking we recently did a report we looked at very high level offenders a third of them had contact with four or more agencies over the region the level of court patient we have here in San Diego can you is really unprecedented it's top-notch and I go to other places and I hear that I think we definitely do well with the resources that we are having you can see there's one recent crime is down over time there's a plethora of theories about three strikes and working well together technology but I think it's fair to say that criminals and people who are very sophisticated are going to keep using technology in different types of ways to stay provide deductive tools to the law enforcement officers you're going to be it's like time to wait around there a glint think keep the race they will not be able to keep up.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The city of San Diego are the city Council recently approved a five-year plan that's quick to restore the police department size and resources. Chief Lansdowne, welcome about the plan for your department?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: For us it is a graduated increase the number of officers that we have on the street. He will get us to the 209 staffing levels. Both for civilian and for the support staff which allows us to get to calls quicker and respect this incredible change I've been doing this for almost 50 years now and the changes this. There are so many people with cell phones the information weekend is a real-time and we are very good at looking at those calls and getting to the ones we have to get to based on the information we have. But the calls for the serious crimes are starting to go out because they are reported so quickly to us. It's causing us to respond to them and said more units to the calls are coming in but it's also delaying us to get the calls are not that violent or require an immediate response. Those times are moving out. People are asking us every day we want our service we want to see more vehicles out there that we have in the past and we are trying to accommodate that we cannot do without the extra people.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As the budgets that do start to rise what will city residency, what kind of changes will they see the police department and the police response because you are getting this extra influx?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: What you'll see is the officers be able to spend more time with the Canadian be able to listen and resolve in prevent crime and the secret to real success in law enforcement is preventing crime, not the armrest part but. Decrypt number officers you have to do that, the more service what's unique about law enforcement today is there's been 70 cutbacks in social services and other government service deal the agency that's going to come to your front door and handle your problem is going to be a police officer whether it's three o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the afternoon. So there's getting to be more experience at the level of providing the level of counseling and assistance and how they triage government now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering Dr. Cynthia Burke, what did you find that was surprising if anything in these reports?

CYNTHIA BURKE: Again it is just the fact that the crime has gone down so much with law enforcement having fewer resources over time. I think is interesting. I think the fact that we see a switch with the juvenile arrest rate going down and other large counties as I mentioned before is not just a San Diego phenomenon I think it is something racing across the street and how was I related to crime patterns that we may be experiencing over time. I think women with the crime stats property currently really does indicate that law enforcement distracted target the violent offenders we talked about. But I guess I would just say you know being in this business for a while there is a cycle we said oolong force officers need recess and it's going to be. And we knee-jerk reaction against psychic discomfort to support the first responders and also to make their job easier and I sound like a broken record when I come talk to you about crime rates but they cannot be everywhere even when we do give them more resources to really be part of the community and help out report takes because must bring this property crime it's not the property crime by electromagnets but 90% in a region so keep an eye at risk report suspicious activity and be a partner with our police.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What do we know but any influence prison realignment might be having a crime rates in San Diego County? I know Chief Lansdowne, you presented a report that said preliminary indications that perhaps there was a boost in crime that sort of corresponded to when prison realignment which of course makes the County responsible for monitoring a larger number of convicted criminals, it's sort of like a point when prison realignment got going. Do we know that there was actually some sort of boost because of the realignment?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: We know there is certainly a connection but we are in the process of documenting the information we get as it relates to prop 109. And being able to quantify that. We will have a good understanding of what we need and we are very fortunate because the state government now has provided some monies for us to help do the oversight of some of the AB 109 releases. And we are starting to use that money countywide working as a task force be able to have closer supervision. I think in the long run we will be able to manage the issue. It got out in front of us and we are catching up as I speak.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Cynthia, I don't know if you've done any work with us but have you seen any cities in the country also have to do with perhaps a spurt in the crime rate going up because of this and they say it is because of the realignment?

CYNTHIA BURKE: Again it was difficult to say why crime was down and I think rhyming applicant also talk about the fact that prevention programs were cut as chief Winston mentioned earlier I think no one would argue with the fact that there's a greater number of offenders in our streets were coming out of prison or other forms of incarceration who are serving less time that there's less of a hammer of incarceration since AB 109 I for the local law enforcement talk about really AB 109 hitters out of nowhere was a quick turnaround of the responsibility is now going to be your fan Nice for they believe we are doing things in terms of monitoring and managing these individual stated that of present early the are coming out of our communities they would have been coming back anyway but I do believe that when you look at the property crime going up you can't say they are nonviolent offenders going out in we are seeing increases so yes I think is something we are doing across the state and county and again we're just going to stay ahead of it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, Chief Landsdowne, how do you expect the new budget is going to affect the attrition rate of officers of the department because I know that's been a really big issue with you. You are losing trained police officers to other departments, cities, counties, what are your hopes for the new money you are going to be getting?

WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: What we are seeing now is all the agencies are beginning to hire again include the San Diego Police Department we are competing directly with other studies cities that in many cases offer more take-home pay then we doing this people make the economic choices he want them to come to us with a look at the budget over a five-year. There certainly some monies for the first time we've had to go to advertise the last class we just kind of 39 individuals I believe something like 20% have Masters degrees, about 60% of them have BS or BA with a lot of life experience it's just critical I could've competed when I was 21 up against the group we just hired so we have the opportunity to increase morale which will keep people here. There's the opportunity and the Council's been clear on it that they're going to allow us to start to hire in by the equipment we need to better police the city and there's a lot of it does he is for people to stay because the jobs are starting to open up in promotions and special operations because that is where the jobs are going to be. So we offer a variety of jobs that most smaller cities cannot do.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Cynthia are County officials in other cities and San Diego are they also beginning to put my money back into law enforcement budgets?

CYNTHIA BURKE: I think they definitely are trying to look at how they can effectively do their resources I haven't heard of any other city that's have as much of a discussion discussion as the city of San Diego obviously the sheriff's department is trying to deal with their issues of housing offenders as well as working with the contract cities but I think we've seen relatively stable ordeal word budget so I hope other cities are going to be able to support their law enforcement as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with San Diego police chief William Lansdowne and Dr. Cynthia Burke, she's Sandag director of criminal justice research. Thanks for coming.


WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE: Thank you very much it's always a pleasure to be with Cynthia.