Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors demanded an explanation from Sheriff Lee Baca on his decision to reduce patrols in those areas. They launched the audit and review, which looked at 23 cities and found that when it came to patrolling those areas, deputies only provided 91 percent of the planned patrol hours. But in cities that contract the department's services, patrolling was at 99 percent.
The sheriff's department says it was only able to patrol the streets of Carson, one of the cities examined in the audit, at a rate of 85 percent of the time compared to its target goal of 98 percent because it had to reduce staff due to budget cuts.
The audit also found that the cost of patrolling services in unincorporated areas was $44.8 million less than what the sheriff's department estimated.
"It's not just about being upset. It's about being shortchanged with justification," said Supervisor Gloria Molina. "Those residents are entitled to the same amount of services, they pay the same taxes."
Molina said the sheriff's department needs to better manage its budget. She said she is pushing for a contract system similar to what the cities already have with the sheriff's department with the hopes of holding the department to a greater accountability.
When it comes to emergencies and response times, those in the unincorporated areas waited, on average, one minute longer, or 17 percent longer, than those who call from contract cities.
The sheriff's management says that is because of several factors, including more difficult road conditions or access, larger patrol areas and a reduction of 65 staff members in those areas due to budget cuts.
Since the audit, patrolling goals have been adjusted to reflect the smaller staff. The Palmdale Station and the COPS Bureau are the only two that are still below the patrolling goal of 98 percent.
"(Baca) is going to fix this problem in terms of the decrease number of deputies in unincorporated areas," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Whitmore said Baca is taking his gang enforcement team and temporarily reassigning them to patrol. He is also looking into moving deputies that are in administrative positions and putting them back into patrol.