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More people requires more police

For every 1,000 residents, another deputy is needed

Posted: October 12, 2008 6:04 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Department deputies train. As the valley's population grows, so does the need for a larger sheriff's force.

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Seventh installment of "The Big Picture," The Signal's in-depth series on population growth and development in the Santa Clarita Valley. Part 7 looks at the need for more sheriff's services as the SCV population grows. Click here for the previous stories.

Sheriff’s Capt. Anthony La Berge never says “no” to more deputies.

He’ll need more cops if the Santa Clarita Valley’s population cracks 400,000 residents, as planners say it will.

As the population grows, so does the need for law-enforcement services.

More than 240 personnel work at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, including 190 sworn personnel.
Those cops kept call-response times relatively flat during the last 18 years, as the valley’s population expanded, La Berge said.

But with more than 600 square miles to patrol, having more personnel would help.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tries to maintain a one-deputy-per-1,000-citizens ratio. The ratio is used when developers prepare economic impact reports on proposed new construction. But the standard isn’t rigid.

Staffing also depends on crime patterns and response times.

“I am looking constantly at response times, and if I see a pattern of increased response times we start shuffling patrols,” La Berge said.

Before the county can assign additional deputies to Santa Clarita Valley, local deputies will need a new station, La Berge said. The current Sheriff’s Station is outdated and small.

“This building was built in the 1970s for a staff of about 90,” the captain said.

Plans have been in the works for a new station for years, but La Berge said there are no firm dates to begin construction.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca took a tour of the Santa Clarita Valley station in 2007.

“We told Sheriff Baca about our plans, but he said we needed to do something in the mean time,” La Berge said.

So valley sheriff’s detectives are settling into a former furniture store on Magic Mountain Parkway. The 9,000-square-foot space will give detectives room to work and deputies room to breathe.

“It’s tough working in such a small space,” La Berge said.

Just as La Berge wouldn’t say “no” to more deputies, he also won’t turn down new facilities.

As the valley expands, smaller stations in Newhall Ranch and Canyon Country might become necessary, he said.

The facilities would not be full-scale stations. They would start as neighborhood sheriff’s offices or a community sheriff’s station.

The smaller stations accommodate personnel and can serve residents but don’t have all the deputies, staffing and a full-service jail.

Positioning stations throughout the area helps response times and puts infrastructure in place for future growth.

“If we need it in the distant future it is already there,” La Berge said.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently passed a developer fee earmarked for construction of law-enforcement facilities, La Berge said, adding: “That gives us a funding mechanism we haven’t had for years.”

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