Your safety could be at risk. Those are the words from El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. It’s an update on an 11 news investigation we first brought you a month ago.
Monday, Sheriff Maketa asked commissioners for $1.5 million to hire 18 more deputies, which is something the sheriff's office hasn't been able to afford for the past 16 years.
Sheriff Maketa says the majority of the time, it takes more than 10 minutes to get to the scene of a crime and he says it’s all because there's not enough patrol deputies.
According to the sheriff, El Paso County only has 41 patrol deputies per 100,000 people. Compare that to Arapahoe County that has 75 deputies per 100,000 and Pueblo, 125 deputies.
In a cry for help, Maketa showed the county commissioners our investigative story, pleading with them to find money in their already tight budget. We revealed it took deputies 56 minutes to get on scene of an armed robbery. The sheriff says the lack of resources not only puts the community at risk, but his deputies as well. "That's the thing that weighs on my mind the most is deputies getting hurt or losing a life because they don't have back-up," Sheriff Maketa said.
The commissioners agree they would like to give the sheriff's office more money. "We’re concerned about the safety of the citizens of El Paso County. It’s a high priority, but there is only so much money to go around," Commissioner Sallie Clark said. If the commissioners can't find the funds, the sheriff says he's keeping his fingers crossed. "We’ll do what we can and hope something major doesn't happen."
Commissioners won't know until early 2007 if there will be money in the budget to give to the sheriff's office, but they say right now, it's not looking promising. Besides the $1.5 million, the sheriff is also asking for another $3.7 million for the jail and other expenses.