Lack of patrol officers has new Eugene Police Chief facing tough problems
EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene Police Department is working to overcome a major challenge: not enough staff to keep up with a growing number of calls for service.
Police Chief Chris Skinner is tackling this issue as one of his for orders of business, and trying to figure out a way to fix this.
Chief Skinner calls it simple economics; there just isn't enough supply to meet demand. However, he's coming up with creative ways to fix what one Eugene resident calls a scary problem.
When Robert Nikeson noticed that his motorcycle had been stolen from his front porch, he said that he freaked out for a moment.
"Right under the window where I have two three-year-old's sleeping," said Nikeson. "They were within five feet of my children."
Nikeson says that he called the police around 7:30 p.m., but by the time they showed up, it was nearly 11 p.m., and he was already in bed.
At least they showed up, he thought, as he had called for a similar problem in the past, and nobody came.
Nikeson's story is not unique. Officer response times have nearly doubled since 2014, from roughly 22 minutes to about 41 minutes. About a third of daily low-priority calls don't get responded to at all.
"The simple fact is that we're just too busy," said Skinner.
According to Skinner, who is the newly appointed Police Chief, he'd like to see an increase in the number of patrol officers from about 70 to 90. They're currently working to fill eight empty spots, but with a dozen impending retirements on the horizon, the same problem is set to remain.
"Really, the net effect is zero," said Skinner. "We're not making the gains we need to make in staffing."
It's not just victims of crime that are frustrated by the problem, either. Skinner says that officers and 911 dispatchers are already racking up hundreds of hours of overtime every year.
Some of the solutions are to accelerate the hiring process, and make applications available at all times in an effort to increase staff. All of this would increase the communities confidence in their police department.
Chief Skinner plans to conduct public meetings and polls to hear the community's concerns, and come up with creative ways to address the problem.