Chula Vista police are asking the city for more officers, saying their department is severely understaffed and needs additional help to respond to growing demand.
The police department ranks among the lowest staffed in California.
Staffing levels are 12 percent lower than ten years ago, making it the lowest sworn officer-to-population ratio in the County.
“We’d have to add 40 police officers today just to be tied for dead last in the county,” said Captain Vern Sallee with the Chula Vista Police Department.
The department never recovered from staffing cuts that began in 2007, but since that time, the city's population has grown 25 percent.
The violent crime rate in Chula Vista has increased dramatically since 2012, yet staffing levels have not. On the whole, crime rates across Chula Vista remain low.
City officials, like Mayor Mary Salas, agreed there is a problem, saying public safety is the city’s biggest concern.
“Shame on us if we don't come out in front of it and seek some solutions to this," said Salas.
The time it takes officers to respond to calls is one of the factors impacted by the staffing levels.
Last week, a resident called the police to report his neighbor threw a rock over the fence at him.
At the time, 43 other emergency calls were waiting for a police response.
It was considered a low emergency call, but when an officer arrived 90 minutes later, the suspect attacked the officer and stabbed him in the face.
The suspect was killed. The officer is expected to make a full recovery.
According to Chula Vista police officers, the longer people wait for a response from officers, the more dangerous the call becomes.
At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Edna Manriquez, 93, and her husband, Pete Manriquez, 88, both volunteers with the department's senior volunteer patrol, came out to show their support.
“We pick up a lot of the slack that they can not get to,” Edna said.
Every councilmember at Tuesday's meeting agreed that staffing is an issue that needs more attention. Officials stated that they plan to start looking at the budget for next year to determine how they can add more positions.
However, adding 40 more officers would cost the city about $10 million a year.
Right now, there are 232 police officer positions in the department.
Before 2007 and the economic downturn, there were 259.