Vincent Farnsworth 2:38 p.m., Sept. 26
Auditor Says Police Botched Stripper Enforcement, Lost Track of Funds
As if the troubled San Diego Police Department didn't have enough headaches with on-duty officer sex scandals and sexual harrassment charges, along comes the office of San Diego city auditor Eduardo Luna with a highly-critical 64-page report finding that the department has failed to adequately enforce local business regulations, may have risked public safety, and repeatedly botched record keeping and fee collections.
According to the audit, the city lost $300,000 in revenue during fiscal year 2010 because police had not assessed proper fees and penalties against an array of business operations throughout the city.
In addition, the audit says that SDPD "is having difficulty keeping accurate and consistent records of amounts collected," and "some businesses are allowed to operate for a period of time without permits—in three cases we reviewed, more than 18 months."
On top of that, "permits are issued without completing required background checks or not complying fully with the Municipal Code."
The police come in for particuarly harsh critcism regarding the department's handling of the city's pawn shops, with Luna concluding, "Processing of pawn shop sales records is falling behind and is not in compliance with State law."
According to the audit, SDPD's Permits and Licensing Unit was established to “...uncover and prevent illegal activity from occurring in those businesses or occupations that have the propensity for such activity.”
SDPD permittees include pawnbrokers, outcall nude entertainers, pool rooms, peep booths, firearms dealers, adult entertainers, swap meets, tow truck drivers, and massage establishments.
"The Unit also collaborates with Vice, which is composed of 15 detectives, three Sergeants, and one Lieutenant and divides work in San Diego into three geographic areas.
"Their work consists of both overt and covert inspections of certain regulated businesses," the report says.
"According to enforcement officers, they dedicate about 50 percent of their time to permits and licensing related activities, such as entertainment and massage establishments."
Regarding the potential of lost funds, Luna's office reported that it had found "variances" between "expected collections," "paper records of revenue deposits, and amounts actually deposited into City accounts."
Lack of adequate controls over that money, the report says, "increase [the] risk that city funds may be misused."
Additionally, "the SDPD’s system for generating adult entertainer and massage therapist permits—GuardCard—is outdated and lacks features to ensure records can be accurately processed and reconciled to revenue transactions."
"...we identified six cases where businesses were granted business tax certificates and allowed to conduct police-regulated activities for several months without obtaining valid police permits.
"For three of these cases, individuals did not have valid police permits for more than 18 months.
"Additionally, we also identified 69 of 110 business tax certificates (63 percent) which were expired or set to expire prior to the expiration of the police permit."
The audit also criticizes the city council, saying "the City’s current tendency is to respond to some threats in a reactive rather than proactive manner."
"For example, the City established licensing requirements for pedicabs only after a serious accident involving an unlicensed pedicab driver resulted in a fatality."
In addition, "neither the SDPD nor the City Council appears to have considered the National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse’s recommendation to conduct criminal background checks on caregivers with access to children, the elderly, or the disabled."
The audit adds that:
"We made 15 recommendations to improve the SDPD’s Permit and Licensing operations. The City Administration agreed or partially agreed with all 15 recommendations, and provided a written response to the audit, which can be found after page 52 of this report."
Pictured: San Diego Luxury Pawn Shop
More like this:
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- Report says downtown bias colors debate over costly new San Diego city hall — Dec. 20, 2012
- City Pleased with Pedicab Operator Ordinance — March 15, 2012
- Unhappy Ending? — Nov. 3, 2011
- Taking Take-Home Vehicles Away — June 29, 2011