Update 2 p.m.:
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley's proposal for the sheriff to gradually increase the number of personnel who can be deployed to communities reeling from spikes in violent crime was approved today.
The Board of Supervisors accepted Ashley's "1.2 Budget Doctrine" in a 5-0 vote preceded by observations from all board members that crime was becoming more prevalent countywide, but particularly in unincorporated communities.
"It's really getting tough out there," said Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, a resident of Lakeland Village. "There's more gangs and crime."
He expressed concern about a local park being overtaken by "tweakers," or methamphetamine users.
Supervisor John Tavaglione said all signs point to growing criminal activity, not only in Riverside County but the entire Southern California region.
"Seems like every day, people are shooting at cops," Tavaglione said. "We have community members' lives at risk. We need a roadmap to get back to where we need to be."
Original story as follows:
Citing increasing crime in his district and the risk of it turning off business prospects, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley Tuesday intended to seek a mandate for the sheriff to steadily increase the number of deputies on patrol.
"I am increasingly concerned that the economic recovery of our county could be derailed by the threat rising crime poses, not only to our residents' safety and well-being, but also to our continued economic revival," Ashley wrote in a proposal submitted for the Board of Supervisors' consideration.
Ashley asked for fellow board members' support for a policy calling on the sheriff to boost hiring over the next five years so that unincorporated communities enjoy a deputy-to-residents staffing ratio of 1.2 per 1,000.
The supervisor called his idea the "1.2 Budget Doctrine."
The current patrol ratio is .75— a level it reached last year to meet the county's spending containment goals.
General fund appropriations for the sheriff's department have been slashed 33 percent since 2009— the last time the patrol ratio was 1.2 per 1,000, according to Ashley.
Most of the personnel reductions have been achieved through attrition, not pink slips.
Last September, the board authorized the sheriff to return to a 1 deputy per 1,000 residents ratio in unincorporated areas, but most of the 50 deputies hired under the plan won't be fully trained and on the streets until next year.
"In the meantime, Riverside County shows an increase in violent and property crimes in unincorporated areas around Hemet, Perris, Lake Elsinore, Cabazon, Palm Desert and Blythe," Ashley said.
"Assault with a deadly weapon and burglaries have risen ... in southwestern Riverside County. It is with a heavy heart that I continue to see reports of serious and violent crime within my district."
The supervisor blamed the spike in part on realignment legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, which allowed the early release of many prisoners not convicted of violent crimes to relieve overcrowding in the state's 33 penal institutions. The county was the recipient of several thousand early releases, of whom Ashley noted two-thirds were known "high-risk" recidivists.
The realignment bill, AB 109, also required counties to begin incarcerating individuals convicted of "non-serious, non-violent" crimes that don't stem from a sexual offense. The result was more pressure on the county's overburdened jails. In 2012, the sheriff released 6,990 inmates to make room.
Under a two-decade-old federal court decree, the sheriff is required to have a bed for each inmate; if not, he must make space for incoming prisoners. The early releases are known as "federal kickouts."
Sheriff's officials focus on "low-level" offenders when deciding who should stay or go, according to previous testimony before the board.
"We must bring job growth to Riverside County to preserve and enhance the quality of life for our residents and communities," Ashley said. "But these efforts will be threatened by a persistently rising crime rate and perceptions that our communities are at risk."