LYNCHBURG, Va. – Those who live in Lynchburg may soon notice a longer wait time for police officers to respond because of a staffing shortage.
Lynchburg Police Chief, Ryan Zuidema refers to it as the “perfect storm,” explaining what has led the department to have 28 officer vacancies.
“We are seeing a greater demand for services in our community and we are seeing less officers to meet those demands,” he said.
Zuidema attributes the rise in emergency calls to the mental health crisis.
“Our officers have been burdened with significant challenges with meeting all the mental health calls in our city. So, it’s taking a longer amount of time. Our officers are on those calls longer and so obviously it doesn’t make those resources available for other calls in the city,” said Zuidema.
For the department to prioritize 911 calls, officers a part of specialized teams, like the intelligence or traffic safety units will now be working as patrol officers to help with emergency calls.
“Where people will see the difference is non-emergency calls for service. A lot of property crime like larceny from vehicles and stuff like that it’s going to take longer for our officers to get there,” explained Zuidema.
As far as what’s being done to hire, Zuidema says the department is partaking in recruiting events and using social media to get the word out. Unlike other municipalities, the City of Lynchburg has not raised pay as an incentive, but the department is working with the city to mend the issue.
“We need to make sure we are investing in our officers the same way our officers are investing in our community. We are going to continue to work with the city to address a long-term solution for our staffing issues,” said Zuidema.