Baca Says He Could Cut Costs of Policing for Breakaway Cities

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department could provide police protection to a new city in the San Fernando Valley for $100 million less each year than the LAPD spends, according to Sheriff Lee Baca.

In addition, the sheriff could save $15 million for a new city in the harbor area, according to reports released Thursday. In response, backers of harbor-area cityhood proposed that the Sheriff's Department take over policing of the new city they envision for San Pedro and Wilmington, while Valley cityhood proponents said they will give the report careful consideration.

"It means we can have more service for less cost than the city of Los Angeles can provide," said Andrew Mardesich of the Harbor Study Foundation, a secession group.

The Sheriff's Department report on the Valley was requested by the Local Agency Formation Commission, which is studying whether cityhood is financially feasible for the Valley and harbor areas of Los Angeles. The reports could dramatically improve the viability of proposed Valley and harbor-area cities--and is likely to add fuel to the debate over whether those areas are getting adequate services given what they pay in taxes.

"We have said all along that the LAFCO study would show how efficient the city of Los Angeles is," said Valley VOTE President Jeff Brain. "This is a glaring example of how there is room for improvement."

The Baca letter could provide a new Valley city with leverage in negotiations with the LAPD over how much it would charge to police the Valley.

"It provides a benchmark that we can work with when we discuss the cost of providing police services," Brain said.

Police Voice Skepticism

Los Angeles officials said they did not know what data the Sheriff's Department used and could not provide their own estimates Thursday, but voiced skepticism about the report's conclusions.

"I think we are doing a sterling job out there. The people are getting their money's worth," said LAPD Deputy Chief Maurice Moore, who has been the department's point man on the LAFCO studies.

A March 28 LAFCO financial study based on the city's own budget data estimated that Los Angeles now spends more than $230 million on Valley police services.

According to the Baca letter, a "rough estimate" indicates his department could provide full law enforcement services to the Valley for $130 million to $145 million annually, based on the average deployment levels in 32 other cities that contract with the Sheriff's Department.

He also said there could be one-time start-up costs totaling $214 million to construct six sheriff's stations and provide patrol cars and other equipment. LAFCO has proposed that the Valley inherit the four existing police stations and its share of patrol cars and other equipment from Los Angeles.

Baca's department did a more detailed analysis for the harbor area that does look at the existing LAPD deployment and concluded that it can provide more services for less cost there.

Referring to the harbor, the letter states that the Sheriff's Department could provide full law enforcement services to San Pedro and Wilmington for $27 million annually, much less than the $42 million it estimates Los Angeles spends.

Baca said his department's study of harbor-area policing "provides a reasonably comprehensive picture of current services provided by the city of Los Angeles."

"Our study reveals a significant number of [LAPD patrol] personnel . . . [who] have been 'loaned' to non-patrol functions, in addition to numerous vacancies," according to the Baca report, dated June 6, and requested by the Harbor Study Foundation.

Policing by Sheriff

The sheriff's proposal of $27 million is based on providing 168 patrol officers and all administrative, investigative and support personnel. Mardesich, of the Harbor Study Foundation, said it would provide a higher level of service than the community is now getting.

As a result, a formal cityhood proposal to be released Monday by the Harbor Study Foundation will call for the Sheriff's Department, not the LAPD, to police the new harbor-area city, Mardesich said Thursday.

The original LAFCO study stated that revenues for a new harbor-area city would fall short of expenses by $31.6 million.

But the Harbor Study Foundation's new report, according to Mardesich, identifies another $30 million in revenues for the proposed city.

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