'Roaming jail wagons' to free up deputies for patrols

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is launching a program designed to allow deputies to spend more time on the streets by reducing the time they spend transporting inmates.

According to MCSO, deputies on patrol book an average of 1,000 inmates every month. Much of the areas those deputies patrol, however, is far away from the jail facilities, which means deputies spend a large chunk of time just getting their suspects from crime scenes to jail.

"The drive to the jail and the time spent in the jail booking process, including a lengthy medical evaluation, means that for at least four hours, deputies are away from their primary responsibility -- patrolling and protecting the public," MCSO Officer Christopher Hegstrom said in a news release.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants to change that.

To that end, MCSO on Monday launched a pilot program in which detention officers in two "roaming jail wagons" will go out to crime scenes in the West Valley, take custody of the suspects, transport them to a jail facility, or possibly ICE headquarters, and handle the booking process.

This change frees up the deputies to return to their patrols much faster after making arrests. If the program works as expected, deputies could spend up to 2,000 more hours each month on the streets.

“If the program proves beneficial to public safety overall, we will certainly expand it to the other areas in our jurisdiction," Arpaio said in a news release Monday morning. "Now that we are hiring detention officers, we are looking to start new programs like this to enhance public safety. Deputies will benefit too.”

Arpaio's volunteer posse has been helping out with inmate transport needs throughout the county. Arpaio said that will continue as necessary.