NanosBy Chief Deputy Chris Nanos

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department strives to provide competent, professional, and comprehensive law enforcement services to the unincorporated areas of Pima County. Pima County encompasses over 9000 square miles with a population of over 350,000 in the unincorporated areas. The Sheriff’s Department relies on just over 400 deputy sheriffs to keep the peace, respond to emergency calls, and investigate criminal activity in addition to a myriad of other responsibilities.

District offices are the focal point of providing law enforcement services to the various communities that comprise Pima County. Six district offices are located throughout our county, including the communities of Ajo, Green Valley, Tucson Mountain, Foothills (northwest Tucson), San Xavier (southwest Tucson), and Rincon (east Tucson). These district offices are the hub of the Sheriff’s Department’s decentralized operations, housing deputies, supervisors, and support staff and tending to the challenges and needs of the local community. District offices provide the much needed support and infrastructure to deputies who frequently return to the office to complete paperwork, turn in evidence, and process arrestees.

The Pima County 2015 Bond Proposal includes a $3 million project to build a Vail District Office near the northeast corner of Mary Ann Cleveland and Houghton Roads. The Vail, Corona de Tucson, and New Tucson communities are currently served by the Rincon District Office located near Tanque Verde and Bear Canyon Roads. This district office is over twenty miles from the proposed Vail District Office.

What does that mean? Deputy Sheriffs are generally not dispatched from the office to each call. Instead, they remain in a deployment area—a beat—available for emergency calls. But administrative needs, including processing arrestees or completing other tasks, often require a trip to the district office, in this case a thirty minute drive from the Vail area communities. Deputies dispatched from the station must navigate traffic and only one true, direct path exists—Houghton Road. Houghton Road has been and will be under construction for the foreseeable future as this corridor is improved, which only serves to further delay response to the Vail area.

The Sheriff’s Department prides itself on its ability to quickly respond to “priority 1” emergency calls. These 9-1-1 calls are often the life-or-death situations in which the person calling needs a law enforcement on-scene within minutes. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has an average response time to these priority calls in the metropolitan area of just four minutes and forty seconds. This is as fast as most metropolitan police departments and sets the standard for sheriffs’ departments.

Unfortunately, the average response time for the Corona de Tucson and Vail area is more than double this average at just over nine minutes. Many factors contribute to this increased response time, but the distance to the nearest district office and the limited transportation corridors available to reach the area explain why deputies take longer to reach calls in this area. Only two transportation corridors extendnorth to the metropolitan area—Houghton Road and Old Spanish Trail—and neither provide for a rapid response to reach this area.

Community policing is a fundamental component of the Sheriff’s Department’s mission and strategy. This initiative is aimed at preventing crime while creating partnerships between law enforcement and the public. These efforts improve the quality of life while reducing the levels of apprehension caused by crime. A key to the success of community policing is the neighborhood involvement of the law enforcement organization. A Vail District Office will be a significant asset in facilitating community policing in the Vail communities, and a vital part of maintaining the high quality of life standard as the area continues to grow and develop.

The Vail District Office proposal is a worthy undertaking. Providing top-notch law enforcement to the Vail community is my priority. The Vail District Office will bring a more visible law enforcement presence in the community and greatly reduce response times to emergency calls.

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