In 1996 SCPD employed 89 sworn police officers. The population in 1996 was about 50,000. Annual calls for service around that time were approximately 67,000 a year.
Fast forward 20 years to present.
Our population is now about 65,000. Annual calls for service in 2016 were about 100,000. And the city currently has 87 sworn officers on the books.
- population has increased by 30% (50,000 to 67,000)
- calls for service have increased 53% (67,000 to 100,000)
- staffing has decreased by 2.25% (89 to 87)
Word on the street is that between retirements, officers out on disability leave and/or sick leave the real number of sworn officers actively working enforcement has dipped to 75 +/-. The last time Santa Cruz had that few officers on the streets was almost 30 years ago.
It’s no wonder the city seems under criminal siege.
Under current city police staffing policies there are supposed to be 94 sworn officers plus an additional 5 over-hired positions to cover for absences. There is more crime than our diminished pool of officers can handle. That’s why we hear things like based on a recent Department audit, “…the department must either increase staffing or reduce demand.” Where is this Staffing and Workload Study? The city needs to release this report they are sitting on.
The department’s first priority must be to hire the number of officers the city budget allows for right now.
I’m not sure how you expect to reduce demand when City crime rates keep going up. In 1998 the city reported 509 violent crimes and 3,124 property crimes amounting to a total of 3,633. In 2017 the city reported 409 violent crimes and 3,715 property crimes amounting to a total of 4,124. Fortunately, violent crime has trended downward by 20% and calls for service dropped about 2.5% for the first time last year. Unfortunately property crime has risen 19% and the total crime rate for the city over the last 19 years is up 13.5%
Lastly and most alarmingly, Police response time in minutes and seconds for Priority 1 crimes (the worst) in 1998 was 3:59, in 2015 it had gone up to 5:21.
That’s a 34% increase in response time which is probably directly attributable to the fact that at any given time we now have fewer officers patrolling than we had 20 years ago.
The Santa Cruz Police Department faces many challenges – staffing levels, officer recruitment and retention, and an outdated and antiquated records management system. Of course, let’s not forget that crime statistics show that Santa Cruz is one of the most dangerous places to live in California.