The goal is straightforward: Get to crimes in progress in five minutes or less and solve two-thirds of crimes that detectives investigate. The staff of sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix is taking at least two minutes longer than its five-minute goal in responding to priority-one calls, reports the Arizona Republic. The office is falling short of its target for clearing cases by arrest or identifying a clear suspect. Its clearance rate inched up in 2006 and has remained flat at 57 percent, short of the 65 percent goal but similar to clearance rates on violent crimes for law-enforcement agencies in other large metro areas.
While results in these key areas have not changed much, the sheriff’s budget has soared since the beginning of the decade. Since fiscal year 2001, Arpaio’s budget, excluding jails, has grown by 93 percent, from $37.6 million to $72.5 million, and its number of law-enforcement positions has risen by nearly 23 percent, from 644 to 789. Priority-one calls for service have remained flat, about 3,000 a year. But all calls for service have more than doubled, from about 93,000 to more than 220,000. Priority-one calls are for crimes that harm people, such as murder, rape and assault, or for property crimes in progress. The sheriff’s office points to one primary factor for not meeting the goals: still-insufficient funding to hire enough deputies and detectives to improve response times and clearance rates appreciably. They say at current staffing levels, the response times are about as good as they’re going to get. Adding 50 patrol deputies might improve overall response times by 20 to 30 seconds, said Larry Black, director of special operations.