A crisis! That’s how the Mayor of Waterbury described the staffing at the police department Monday night. He said the city has to make some changes before public safety is compromised.
Waterbury police have been patrolling the streets day and night, but the department is down thirty officers, and a smaller presence is something the community has noticed. “Anything would help, anything would help,” said neighbor Greg St. John. He lives in the Overlook neighborhood where there was a spike in car break-in’s during recent weeks.
Several victims complained to city leaders, and said police didn’t show up fast enough after crimes were reported. More officers have started to watch this area. “If something happens and I call police, I want them here right away,” St. John added.
The mayor admitted staffing problems have made it tough for police to get to those types of calls right away, and a slower presence has made finding the criminals a challenge, although the officers have still made critical arrests.
“As far as priority calls accidents with injuries any violence there’s no delay. We've studied that and we are very sure of that,” said Mayor Neil O’Leary. He explained, the department should have three hundred officers, but between budget cuts, officers on long-term disability, and recent retirements, it’s short dozens of officers and more than ten percent understaffed. “The warmer months coming we get busier this time of year i have a level of concern,” Mayor O’Leary added.
The city has been trying to find a solution. It has taken detectives who work inside, and put them on the streets instead. It tested several new hires a few weeks ago, but their training will take a year. Ultimately getting more money is key.
“We're trying to find a way to staff more positions and not raise taxes and believe me...that is a challenge,” said Mayor O’Leary. He doesn’t want the public to panic, because public safety is a top priority. The city plans to apply for federal grants, and should know more about staffing when the budget is finalized in a few weeks.