Harris County commissioners in Houston have voted to have taxpayers shoulder more of the cost for certain areas and groups to get extra law enforcement patrols under a controversial contract deputy program, reports the Houston Chronicle. Officials said big rate increases could be in store for participants in 2010, and tax-collecting groups may be expected to begin covering the entire cost of employing their contract deputies.
The program allows many entities to pay to have sheriff’s or constables’ deputies assigned to specific areas rather than larger patrol districts that may include dozens of subdivisions. The county began studying the program after a Houston Chronicle analysis found the Sheriff’s Office filled contract positions immediately even though about a fifth of the department’s 352 regular patrol slots remained vacant. The sheriff contends the program puts more officers on the streets to keep everyone safer, not just residents of the neighborhoods patrolled by contract deputies.