Assailed by critics who say the number of San Fernando Valley police officers has slipped dangerously low amid rising gang violence, LAPD officials said Tuesday that response times have dropped by more than 30 percent and overall crime is down. But while Deputy Chief Michel Moore said he will do everything he can to keep response times low, data provided by the Los Angeles Police Department also showed that the number of permanently stationed officers in the Valley has dropped to its lowest level in four years. “The results speak of a balanced score card,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission while presenting a 15-page report on the issue. The quicker response times of eight minutes, down from 12 minutes in 2003, is still one minute above its goal of seven minutes, already met by the department’s three other bureaus. And though routine calls took 40 minutes to respond to and patrols were sparse, violent crime was down 2 percent in the Valley last year. “I am ensuring that if the patrol plan is to have seven or eight units, that we don’t fall below four,” he said after the meeting. “It’s a balancing act. On a rare occasion, we have gotten woefully small.” Councilman Dennis Zine, who two months ago demanded that the LAPD provide a detailed explanation of response times and daily deployment figures, said despite the explanation, he’s not satisfied that the department has enough officers in the Valley bureau’s six divisions. “You don’t have the numbers in geographic areas responding to needs in the Valley,” Zine said. “Where are the officers to reduce response times?” he asked rhetorically, pointing out that only 72 percent of the LAPD’s uniformed officers – some 9,500 – are in regional bureaus. And though the department provided an outline of deployment plans, LAPD Chief William Bratton said in a letter to the commission, “… It is not in the best interest of public safety to release our daily deployment information …” Zine believes that the LAPD is pulling much-needed patrol officers from their regular duty and placing them in specialized units or task forces favored by Bratton. But LAPD officials said they have merely been shifting resources to where they are needed most, a hallmark of Bratton’s strategy to decrease crime in violent areas. In the Valley, gang crime is up 6 percent so far this year, but that rate has fallen dramatically from a 44 percent spike last year. Earlier in the year, to combat crime, the LAPD created one of the very task forces that Zine has complained about. The violent-crime task force goes after gangs and criminals. Though it is often credited with helping reduce gang violence, the department’s use of motorcycle officers to bolster the task force has been blasted by Zine as making the streets more dangerous. But Moore and other department leaders say there are constant trade-offs that must be made with, for instance, officers picking up a motel detail, serving on an auto theft task force or even working on the federal consent decree. It is more efficient to pool resources to focus on a specific problem that will later generate work for uniformed officers, the report argues. For instance, the Registration Enforcement and Compliance Team, or REACT, has eight officers. The team cracks down on sex offenders and checks that they are registered with police. This, in turn, frees up other officers from this duty. Moore insists the department will use overtime, officers from special task forces and any other available resources to ensure that the number of cars patrolling any Valley division does not fall below half of its recommended levels – 133 patrol units as of this month. But that number is split among six divisions and three shifts. And under that calculation, as few as three patrol cars could be responsible for one Valley division. Still, Moore said department manpower rarely falls that low. An analysis of July records – when Zine contended that the numbers of patrol units were dangerously low – showed that the Valley had about 118 of the 127 patrol units recommended on the street daily, he said. And though response times have improved, the Van Nuys and Devonshire divisions still take an average of nine minutes to respond to emergency calls. “I think we are getting our fair share,” said civilian police Commissioner Alan Skobin, who is the liaison for the Valley. “But the fair share doesn’t lead to a sufficient number of police officers that the city deserves.” Moore pointed out that the Valley – the department’s largest division, with 1.3 million people living in its 221 square miles – has problems similar to the rest of the city. “Are we stretched thin? Absolutely,” he said, “but it’s no different than anywhere in the city.” [email protected] (818) 713-3741160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!