ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Staffing shortages at local police departments are causing concerns, as violent crime increases across Monroe County.
The past year, the Rochester Police Department has struggled to hire enough officers. The Locust Club says in 2020 the city hired 16 recruits but had 41 retirements.
“In 2021, we’ve hired nobody as the police department, and we have had 24 retirements or transfers. So just since January of 2020, we’ve had 65 members leave the department for other jobs or retirements and we’ve only hired 16,” said Adam DeVincentis, the Vice President of the Rochester Police Locust Club.
DeVincentis says the shortages of police officers is “incredibly concerning.” He says the shortages leave officers having to work double shifts, which can make their jobs even tougher.
“They do need to decompress if they work their r-days, they are working 10 days in a row of mostly doubles and they are physically and mentally exhausted at times, still trying to give the best service they can and still get to the calls,” DeVincentis said.
Officials say there could be a number of reasons for the staffing shortages.
“A lot of that is just that anti-police rhetoric around the country. Things happen in one place nationally and it effects other locations. Lots of people in the profession aren’t staying and lots of people that thought about the profession, just don’t see the benefits that they used to see there because there is extra dangers,” DeVincentis said.
The shortage isn’t just impacting the Rochester Police Department. The department in Irondequoit says less people are signing up to take their officer tests too.
“What we are seeing is there is not as much interest in law enforcement as there was in years past. You can see through the number of people taking the civil service test trying to get into this career field. There is not the number of people taking those tests. Fortunately we still have a lot of qualified candidates and a lot of people that still want to serve their community,” said Alan Laird, the Chief of Police of the Town of Irondequoit.
DeVincentis says a few years ago, roughly 2500 people would take the civil service test. He said recently, they had 1100 applicants, but only 475 showed up to the test.
These staffing shortages come as crime rates are rising not just here, but across the country. Last weekend alone, more than 120 people died in shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
So what’s causing the rise in crime? One retired sheriff and criminal justice professor says the COVID-19 pandemic probably has a lot to do with it.
“There has been some form of an economic collapse and loss of income because of COVID and loss of income can lead to people resorting to desperate measures just for pure survival,” Glenn Grana, Assistant Professor of Intelligence and Homeland Security with the Criminal Justice Department at Robert’s Wesleyan College.
Grana also said the pandemic has led to more social anxiety, mental health issues, and an increase in addiction, all which can affect violence rates.
“There has been some form of an economic collapse and loss of income because of COVID and loss of income can lead to people resorting to desperate measures just for pure survival,” Grana said.
Local police officers also say New York’s bail reform and a push to defund the police could also be leading to more violence.
“The defund the police movements, where we are taking police off the streets who recover handguns, who find these on traffic stops, who stop people on the streets with guns on them… when you start taking that element away, unfortunately the crime element moves in and it’s easier for someone to have an illegal handgun, somebody to shoot somebody,” said Lt. Robbert Long with the Gates Police Department.
Law enforcement experts say if there are less police and more crime, it’s unfortunately going to lead to more victims.
“You start reducing that number, the only thing that’s going to do is leave a population exposed and once the population is exposed and you have eliminated or reduced the number of people that are there to protect them, they will become victims of crimes because criminals will always be criminals,” Grana said.
The staffing shortages leave police departments turning to communities and citizens to help them keep streets safe.
“We are reaching out to the members of the community to get them involved as well. We can’t do this alone. We recognize we can’t do this alone and it really does take the whole community to help police their community,” Chief Laird said.
If you’re interested in being a police officer, there is a civil service entrance exam happening in September. You can visit the Monroe County Civil Service page to sign up.