Crime is falling in Santa Paula, Ca., but an audit found the small farming city’s police department inefficient, outdated and underfunded, though well-regarded by residents, reports the Los Angeles Times. The city’s reported crime fell 33 percent in 2003 to levels not seen since the 1970s. “Our mission is to reduce crime, and we’re doing a damned good job of it,” said Police Chief Bob Gonzales.
“The city of Santa Paula cannot continue to maintain a separate municipal police agency at the current level of funding,” the audit by Pasadena-based Arroyo Associates said. “The city must either find the means by which it can increase funding … or investigate contracting for service with the Ventura County Sheriff or other police agency.”
Among problems cited were a faulty department structure, a vague statement of the department’s mission, and a sense that Gonzales plays favorites with promotions, special assignments and training. “A significant number of the Department’s business practices are outmoded, inefficient and counterproductive,” it said.
The audit said the Police Department had significant strengths, including strong community support, solid response times, and residents’ perception that the city is becoming safer. Of 300 residents surveyed, 85 percent rated the police department good or very good and 95 percent said they felt safe or very safe walking alone during daytime near their homes.