The South Pasadena police and fire chiefs touted their departments’ response times in their annual reports to the City Council during a meeting earlier this month.
In 2018, the police department had an average response time of 2 minutes, 5 seconds, according to Police Chief Joe Ortiz. He added that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which serves some other area cities such as Temple City, had response times of between five and six minutes.
In its response time, the city’s fire department beat the standard of the National Fire Protection Association, according to Fire Chief Paul Riddle. In 2018, the city’s response time for emergency medical services (EMS) was 4 minutes, 56 seconds compared to the national standard of five minutes, Riddle said. The response times for fire calls was 5 minutes, 33 seconds compared to the national standard of 8 minutes.
“It is remarkable that a small city with a relatively small budget is able to run such a complete independent city, full-service city with our own police department, our own fire department,” said Mayor Marina Khubesrian, responding to the reports at the June 5 council meeting.
In his report, Ortiz said the police department received 16,334 calls for service in 2018. The city’s crime rate had an increase of 3.8 percent over 2017 due to spikes in January and July, his report said, but the rate for the last four years is on a downward trend. Crime in South Pasadena is in the “middle range” as compared to the majority of neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley, the report said.
Robberies increased to 19 in 2018 from 9 in 2017. Most of the robberies involved suspects approaching a pedestrian on the street and taking their belongings, according to the report.
“The majority of the folks who are detained are homeless and they will openly share with the officer that they have a drug problem and that’s why they steal,” Ortiz said.
Burglaries were down 21 percent. Simple theft increased by 14 percent. Part of this was due to residents leaving valuables in unlocked vehicles and a rise in package thefts, according to the report.
Ortiz discussed his department’s crime prevention and community outreach efforts, mentioning that the department gets involved in Neighborhood Watch and events such as Women’s Self Defense, Teen Academy, Read Across America, MADD and active shooter education.
He reported that he and his officers wear body cameras.
“It is extremely important to have that as a tool to provide top-notch performance and accountability,” Ortiz said.
In his report, Fire Chief Riddle said his department responded to 2,482 calls for service in 2018, a slight increase from 2017, when it was 2,464.
Overall, there has been a 30 percent increase in fire calls in the last 10 years. Twenty percent of the calls were outside the city last year, as the department has mutual aid agreements with neighboring agencies.
Riddle said that the biggest category of calls is emergency medical, which was 64 percent of the calls. The second-largest, at 21 percent, is service calls, which include assisting the elderly and animal rescues.
Fires make up 3 percent of the calls, he said. There were 31 actual working fires in 2019 – nine structure fires, eight vegetation and 14 vehicle and other miscellaneous types of fires. He said the estimated dollar loss was $1.5 million
“That number represents total replacement costs for structure and content within the structure,” Riddle said.
The fire department helped out on four brush fires throughout the state in 2018 — the Holy Fire, Delta Fire, Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire — and was reimbursed in full from the state at $106,837, Riddle said.
He added that his department is involved in training, public education and fire prevention as well as in inspections of businesses, apartments, schools and assisted-living facilities.
In response to a question from Council Member Diana Mahmud concerning the increase in traffic in the city and response times, Riddle said that travel times can be impacted during certain times of the day but there is no clear pattern. He said firefighters try to stay off routes that are problematic during certain times of the day and plan the best routes.
“We can navigate through traffic pretty good,” Riddle said.