Beginning Monday, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be trying out a new pilot program to reduce the time deputies spend transporting inmates before booking them into jail. Sheriff Joe Arpaio hopes that this program will cut down on the time officers spend away from their primary duties, keeping them more readily available to patrol the streets so as to protect the public. The primary objective is to improve officer response times and benefit the community as a whole. According to a news release, deputies book an average of 1,000 inmates per month, spending at least four hours away from their responsibilities waiting for the booking process.

Deputies would no longer be responsible for transporting inmates to jail under the new program. Instead, inmates will now be transported by armed detention officers in two new secured inmate transport vans that will drive to crime scenes or central locations where suspects can be dropped off. The move could potentially free up as many as 2,000 hours for deputies each month. The program is aimed at preventing deputies from transporting inmates to far-flung locations in the 9,200-square-mile county to the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix.

The program will also offset the potential rise in transport needs to Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in central Phoenix due to Senate Bill 1070.

However, many feel this initiative is unlikely to alleviate a long-standing criticism police chiefs have leveled against Sheriff Joe Arpaio which is the decision he made to close satellite booking facilities in November 2007. That decision left police agencies scrambling to devise plans to transport inmates to downtown Phoenix without taking police officers off the streets.

Either way, two new secured transport vans are set to begin routes to crime scenes or other locations, taking custody of inmates and spending time to complete the booking process. Sheriff Joe’s new program is said to cut down on the need for 150 West Valley deputies to drive inmates downtown and wait to have them placed in jail. The volunteer posse will continue to supplement inmate transport needs whenever necessary.

Areas patrolled by Maricopa County are currently said to be among the safest in the Valley, contributing to the statistics showing that crime is down throughout the county.

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