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Public safety spending & staffing continue decline

Criminal Justice Research Division

Due to severe economic constraints in recent years, public safety funding and staffing levels in the San Diego region have been decreasing steadily, according to a report released November 8 by the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division. 

The report, Public Safety Allocations in the San Diego Region: Funding and Staffing for Fiscal Year 2011, provides in-depth statistical analyses of data from the past decade, as well as a detailed breakdown of data by jurisdiction. View Report

Researchers found that regionwide spending on prosecution, corrections, public defense, and law enforcement had dropped to $1.78 billion in Fiscal Year 2010-11 (FY 11), down from a peak of $1.91 billion three years ago. Per capita public safety expenditures last fiscal year were $552, compared to $564 in 2009-10 and $617 in 2007-08.

“In the past three years, law enforcement agencies throughout the region and the country have had to grapple with deep budget cuts,” said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG director of criminal justice research. “Many of them have been forced to implement early retirement incentives, reduce staff positions, and leave vacancies unfilled.”

Regionally, there were 1.27 sworn officers per 1,000 residents, an average that is lower than five years ago (1.41) and significantly lower than the national average (2.3). Five percent of the budgeted sworn law enforcement officer positions were left vacant in 2010-11, up from 4 percent a year ago.  

The report also contains the following findings:

Overall, 35 percent of general funds for all of the incorporated cities with individual police departments were dedicated to law enforcement, ranging from 26 percent to 48 percent across jurisdictions.

About one-fourth of the County of San Diego’s budget was allocated for public safety functions, which include law enforcement for unincorporated areas, prosecution, public defense, court support, community supervision of offenders, and local corrections.

The second largest expenditure category following law enforcement was corrections, with $315.5 million spent on housing adults and juveniles in jails and other facilities locally in FY 11. Community supervision by probation officers, in comparison, cost $96.8 million. Regional spending on corrections is expected to go up because of the state’s decision to shift certain offenders previously housed and supervised by the state to counties under California Assembly Bill 109.

Project Manager(s)

Dr. Cynthia Burke, Director, Criminal Justice Research Division
Phone: (619) 699-1910, E-mail:

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or