A first-of-its-kind study on Contra Costa County law enforcement offers a snapshot of San Ramon's police force.
As budget cuts force other communities to lay off officers and delay equipment and facilities upgrades, San Ramon actually hired two new sworn officers in the past year and . Also, the crime rate in San Ramon has dropped despite a 61-percent population increase in the past decade to 72,000 residents.
The county's Local Agency Formation Commission – an appointed seven-member board that decides on boundaries and service areas for public agencies – ordered the report to find out how well municipal governments are able to provide public services in the face of economic troubles and population growth.
The 326-page report is based on growth projections from the Association of Bay Area Governments. According to the association, Contra Costa had 377,000 jobs last year. That should grow by at least 7,000 jobs a year over the next 20 years, outpacing residential growth.
San Ramon is expected to have one of the highest jobs-per-household ratio in the county, according to those projections. And the city's population growth will remain among the fastest in the county, the report estimates. The other rapidly growing cities named are Brentwood, Oakley, Richmond and Hercules.
Still, San Ramon has one of the lowest demands for police service as measured by crimes per 1,000 residents (less than 10 per 1,000 for San Ramon – a third less than Antioch).
Other notes from the report:
- San Ramon spends a smaller percentage of its general fund – 27 percent – on police services.Antioch, in comparison, allocated 73 percent this year.
- Per-capita costs for police services countywide: $296. County law enforcement agencies spend a combined $500 million a year – $200 million just by the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
- Even though the recession slowed development and population growth, Contra Costa is still expected to be one of the quickest-growing Bay Area counties. The Association of Bay Area Governments estimates that population will increase by 87,000 in the next decade.
- Given current growth patterns and land available, San Ramon will need to either hire more officers or cut service.
- San Ramon's average response time – 7 minutes, 8 seconds – is one of the slowest in the county. Clayton's is the fastest: 1 minute, 30 seconds.
- To save money, San Ramon, Danville, Alamo and Blackhawk could synch up wireless dispatch services through a joint power agreement.
- San Ramon should ask the county Board of Supervisors to tap into the $6.28 million in reserves pegged for the Dougherty Valley (County Services Area M-29) to pay for police services there. Right now, revenues generated from that area aren't enough to cover the cost of policing it. That's left San Ramon with a $1.8 million deficit in each of the past two years, the report says.
- San Ramon has a high number of proposed developments compared to other cities in the county, so it will have to plan to beef up its police force.
- The Town of Danville should annex Alamo to consolidate police services. Because right now, some residents of the unincorporated community pay taxes into two county police districts but get no services in return. Alamo Springs residents paid more than $46,000 last year to Danville and two county service districts.
- Some 111 unincorporated districts pay fees for law enforcement. Many of them, like those in Alamo, overlap.
The county commission is required by law to evaluate public services, including law enforcement, water, fire protection, parks and health.
Commissioners on Aug. 10 will hold a public hearing about the report. For more information, go to www.contracostalafco.org.
Click on the attached PDF to view the full report.