With over 100 days in 2009 behind us, we continue to work to ensure we are providing the best service possible to our communities. With great budgetary concerns we have had to be efficient in the utilization of our resources and have had to research and seek additional funding resources to support our efforts.
Recently I appeared before the Board of Supervisors to seek approval to apply for funding through a Federal Hiring Recovery Program in the form of a COPS Grant. Our first COPS grant proposal for 30 new Deputies was initially denied by the Board of Supervisor’s however, I’m happy to report they approved my revised proposal for 15 new Deputies. These positions are fully funded (100% salary, insurance and pension costs) for three years by the federal government. More Deputies could not have come at a better time, since we are experiencing a significant rise in crime during this economic downturn. We have seen a clear spike in Theft, Burglary, Domestic Violence and Homicide in Pinal County. More than half of our county's population lives in the unincorporated areas of our county - which means that PCSO are the Police and primary responders in those areas. In addition, we are charged with a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team, Search & Rescue, Narcotics Task Force and DUI Task Force as well as providing assistance to smaller police agencies in many of their functions. Meanwhile, our population continues to grow and at a higher percentage in unincorporated areas than anywhere else.
Our Jail staffing improvements have been approved which will ensure command supervision 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This improvement will not result in increased costs, but will allow for on site supervision by a Lieutenant during nights and on weekends.
Our emergency response time for a Deputy to a Priority #1 Emergency call is 13.6 minutes. Response times for a Priority #2 Urgent call remains over 18 minutes. This is unacceptable and is why we have added more Deputies to the road to answer your emergency calls and reduce our response times. Many citizens have observed an increased presence by our Patrol Deputies in their communities. We are working harder and we are working smarter.
We have stepped up enforcement against drug smugglers and intend to seize their money and assets. Our drug seizures have nearly quadrupled in the past three months and we have seized over 73 vehicles from these criminals. We shall take the criminals’ dirty money and vehicles and use them for law enforcement purposes to add to our limited financial resources during this budget crisis.
The majority of our 700 full-time PCSO employees are exemplary in their performance and sincere in their commitment to protect and serve you and our families. Just this week I was reminded of the selfless acts and heroism of the brave men and women who serve our community. I had the privilege of pinning a Lifesaving Medal on the chest of Deputy Russell Warren. Deputy Warren saved the lives of four people with the help of Deputy David Hernandez and Cpl Garric Berry. A Purple Heart was also pinned to the proud chest of Cpl Chris Encisco in front of his family. Cpl Encisco was responding lights and sirens to a domestic violence call and was involved in a head on collision with an impaired driver, thereby forcing his medical retirement. These are just a few of the countless incidents of exemplary service and heroism daily.
We have made numerous improvements and there are many more changes in process. All of these improvements in operations, current training of staff and use of modern technology will allow us to become more efficient and more effective. It will help us to do more with less. I am honored to serve as your Sheriff and I will be relentless in the pursuit of improved service through increased discipline, training and accountability.
Paul R. Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona