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Burbank Leader

Burbank police response times improve despite staffing challenges

By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene@tchekmedyian@latimes.com

12:22 PM PST, December 7, 2012

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Despite a decrease in police manpower, crime is down in Burbank, even as officers respond to more calls for service, and in a quicker fashion, officials reported Tuesday.

“We’re trending very well,” said Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse. “Sometimes it’s not the numerics — how many you’ve got — it’s how smart you are about deploying them.”

The department shed three positions this fiscal year — a school resource officer, police lieutenant and police cadet — and added two police officers to respond to mental health-related calls.

Even so, the city saw a 2% decrease in serious crime — including burglary, theft, domestic violence and assault — and a 12-second reduction in emergency response times since last year for a new average of 3 minutes, 37 seconds, officials reported.

Over the last five weeks, police trimmed another 30 seconds off emergency response times, to an average 3 minutes, 5 seconds.

“Not only is the police department doing more with less, you’re doing better with less,” Councilman Jess Talamantes said Tuesday.

For all other calls, average response times decreased by a minute to 19 minutes, 15 seconds. . The average response time over the last five weeks, though, shrunk to 16 minutes, 45 seconds.

The number of dispatch radio calls, meanwhile, have increased 5% to 41,040 this year compared to last, LaChasse said.

He attributed the progress to a heightened emphasis on predictive policing, deploying extra police resources to problem areas and public outreach efforts for crime prevention.

“It’s much easier and it’s better public policy to prevent something from happening than for us to have to react and arrest somebody and go through the investigative process and the prosecution process,” LaChasse said.

He also commended the community’s vigilance, noting that residents frequently report suspicious activity.

“We have good witnesses here,” he said.

Despite the personnel restructuring, the department’s overall budget increased $3.3 million to $48.8 million this fiscal year compared to last year — a product of rising salary and pension costs, officials said.

Police services make up about a third of the city’s $150-million General Fund budget, which pays for most public services.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.