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Statement: Chula Vista has the fewest police officers per capita in San Diego County, Chula Vista Taxpayers Association president Larry Breitfelder told Channel 10 for a May 3 story about laying off police officers.

Determination: True

Analysis: Just five years ago, police officers were flocking to Chula Vista from cash-strapped cities like San Diego that couldn’t afford better pay or benefits. The housing boom fueled Chula Vista’s coffers while the pension crisis placed more pressure on San Diego’s.

And then, the housing bubble burst, the economy collapsed and Chula Vista’s boom days were over — or at least stalled. The city that once lured experienced officers and helped spur pay increases in San Diego to improve retention is now scaling back its ranks.

Earlier this year, Chula Vista officials cut 15 police officer positions to save more than $4 million and help close an estimated $12.5 million budget gap. Eleven of the positions have since been vacated through attrition, but four police officers still face July 1 layoffs.

Seeking to avoid that, city officials have directed police to explore how to keep the four officers without slashing other city services like libraries and parks. Last week, before another officer retired, city officials estimated paying the annual cost of keeping five officers would be more than $600,000.

And throughout the ongoing discussion about whether to keep or lay off the police officers, news media and advocates like Breitfelder have cited this statistic: Chula Vista already has the fewest number of police officers per capita in the county.

And in fact, that’s an accurate comparison, according to the most recent population estimates and a Jan. 1 survey by the state Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training.

Chula Vista, the county’s second largest city, had the lowest ratio with about nine police officers per 10,000 residents. To the opposite extreme, Coronado’s police department has about 17 officers per capita. (Check out the full list above.)

Advocates like Breitfelder cite the per capita comparison because it suggests that Chula Vista already doesn’t have enough police officers to appropriately cover its population. Without context, the statistic bolsters the argument that Chula Vista should increase the number of police officers.

That’s not what it necessarily represents. Numerous factors beyond the number of police officers, such as the number of emergency calls or how officers are distributed, impact crime levels in the community. While Chula Vista has fewer police officers per capita than San Diego, for example, Chula Vista had a lower violent crime rate last year.

No matter, the statistical comparison is accurate so we’ve called it True. If you disagree with that determination or our analysis, please explain why in the comments section below.

What claim should we Fact Check next? Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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