Despite a tight budget and a shrinking work force, Utah County sheriff's personnel put in a "remarkable" performance last year in keeping up with a rising workload, says Sheriff Dave Bateman.
The department handled an all-time high caseload last year, "but not without a lot of complaints, though," Bateman said. "We can't keep up at this rate indefinitely. We're at the point where we're about burned out. Something's got to change."According to the Sheriff's Department annual report, deputies responded to nearly 1,000 more calls in 1988 than in 1987, while personnel decreased from 142 to 109 during the same period. Bateman said employee reductions resulted from revenue cuts for part-time employees.
"I think the employees of the Sheriff's Department have demonstrated an efficiency level that is truly remarkable," Bateman told county commissioners during their meeting Wednesday.
He also credited volunteer organizations "that provided service to the people of Utah County. Without their never-ending efforts, we would not be able to meet the county's needs."
The Sheriff's Department, however, will have to begin cutting services unless it soon sees increases in both its personnel and budget. For example, Bateman said, the department already has used 30 percent of its 1989 overtime budget just to keep up with the workload.
In addition to increased service calls, jail personnel faced a bulging inmate population that has grown steadily the past three years. The average daily population, which was 92.3 in 1986, rose to 118.8 last year. The average for women nearly doubled over the same period, jumping from 4.3 to 8.2.
The good news last year is that the rate of serious crimes within the department's jurisdiction dropped for the third year in a row. Bateman attributed the drops to changes in law-enforcement policy.
"One of the things we have noted is that the crime rate seems to be positively linked to the level of substance and alcohol abuse in the community," he said.
"We're operating on a premise decided in 1985 to aggressively enforce alcohol- and substance-abuse-related ordinances. Apparently, the theory has some validity to it, because (serious) crimes are down and arrests are up. We're happy about that."
Bateman said he isn't sure why calls for service are up in the county's unincorporated areas. Because those areas shrink a little each year through annexation by county municipalities, he said, calls should decrease.
"But we just haven't seen that," he said. One possible explanation is the increased use of unincorporated areas for recreation by the county's growing population.