TUCSON, Ariz. — With thousands of miles to cover the Pima County Sheriff's Department is facing staffing issues.
Sheriff Chris Nanos is tackling the issue now.
He says he's facing a staffing shortage and rising emergency calls, particularly in the Rincon District on the east side.
The Rincon district alone is the size of Rhode Island and the continuing staffing shortage is taking an extra toll on patrols.
"We're definitely low," said Nanos. "Our authorized strength is 230. Today we're at 193. If we get to 180, that's pretty critical."
His department has the same ground to cover with fewer deputies so he's adjusting district lines and reworking patrol beat boundaries to get deputies to calls faster.
He's starting with the Rincon District. It's by far the largest coverage area in Pima County, and it's mostly rural, meaning it often can take more time to get to emergencies.
Right now there's only one substation at Tanque Verde near Catalina Highway.
That's quite a distance from the town of Vail which sits in the Rincon District.
Nanos says it's become a challenge because the region is booming and about 7,000 calls are coming in every year.
"The Rincon deputy would take 30 to 45 minutes to get to a Vail call," said Nanos.
So the sheriff has come up with a solution to response time challenges.
He's splitting the Rincon district in two. Part of the area remains the Rincon District with 3 patrol beats. The other will be the Vail District also with 3 patrol beats.
He asked the county administrator, Chuck Huckleberry if he could place a temporary substation at the Pima County Fairgrounds.
"He quickly accommodated us. That's happening," said Nanos.
It'll remain there for 3-4 years until a permanent substation is built in the area of Houghton and Mary Ann Cleveland Way.
To put this into perspective about the same number of calls come from Vail each year as two other districts -- Green Valley and Tucson Mountain. Those two regions have substations. Vail does not.
The Rincon District is likely not the only one to change. Nanos is considering adjustments in the San Xavier, Foothills, Green Valley, and Tucson Mountain Districts.
"For the last 40 years, we've done nothing to change our district line or our beat boundaries. So we're looking at those things," Nanos said. "We are trying out best to look at everything we've got in front of us and make it work."