Police working with fewer officers

GLENDALE — The police department had fewer officers responding to emergency calls last year than neighboring cities, including Los Angeles, Pasadena and Burbank, according to an annual department report.

The Glendale Police Department is operating with 264 officers, which is seven fewer than the 2007-08 fiscal year due to budget cuts, according to the department’s 2008 Overview of Statistics and Organization Structure report released Tuesday.

The department’s officer-to-residents ratio is 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents, while Burbank’s officer ratio is 1.5 to the same number of residents, Pasadena’s is 1.8 and Los Angeles’ officer ratio is 2.6, according to the report.

The likelihood of fully staffing the department is low due to the city’s current budget crisis, Police Chief Randy Adams said.

“It makes a difficult challenge because I think the City Council, management and myself and everybody would like to be able to grow the department, but it takes money and funding to do that, and right now, we are kind of in a budget meltdown and running out of money just to pay for existing staff,” he said. “If we are unable to grow the department, we probably can’t do the necessary crime prevention programs that I think help suppress the crime rate.”

The department released its 2008 crime statistics Tuesday, and they showed that property crimes went up 12% from 2007 while violent crimes decreased 6% over the same period.

“We are trying very hard to keep the streets safe because once you lose them ... you never get them back completely,” said Capt. Ray Edey of the Investigative Services Bureau. “We are working very hard in partnership with all the other city divisions, with the community and the schools, in trying to keep a lid on things and trying to sustain the quality of life in Glendale, and we are holding our own, but we have been losing some ground. That’s undeniable.”

Increased calls for service, higher population and fewer officers than other cities contributed to the crime increase, said Edey, who prepared the department’s report.

“I really think staffing has a lot to do with what we are seeing,” he said.

Glendale is a destination community and daytime population swells to about 500,000, so the number of officers that are on duty should be higher, Edey said.

The department has known that it had fewer officers than other police departments and tried to change that in 2004, Adams said.

At that time, the department proposed to the City Council a Strategic Police Staff Augmentation plan to grow its staff to 100 more officers, he said.

The plan was divided into four phases and during each phase, 25 officers would be added to the department’s staff, he said. Officials hoped the plan would be supported by Measure A, which was on the 2004 election ballot and proposed to increase sales tax to pay for law enforcement throughout the county, Adams said.

But voters didn’t pass the measure, and the only phase that the department received was phase one, he said.

“So far, the city hasn’t found another revenue source to pay for that type of growth, which is what is needed to make us comparable to surrounding cities,” Adams said.

While the police department’s staff is low, the officers have been resilient and are trying to suppress crime, he said.

But they have felt the burden and want to see the staff grow, Adams said.

Councilman Dave Weaver would like to see the department’s staff increase, but he said he doesn’t think it could happen yet.

“I think, realistically, we are stuck in this situation,” Weaver said.

The city doesn’t have the money to pay for more police, he said. If the public wants more police on the street, it should pass an assessment in which funding goes to police, Weaver said.

“Police and fire actually do more than some of the critics want to say they are doing, which is sad,” he said.

 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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