ATLANTA - As crime fears increase in several neighborhoods across Atlanta, the number of police officers available to patrol communities continue to decline. Last summer, the chief estimated the city's police force was 200 short of the authorized strength that over 2,000. That number is actually closer to 350.
It’s not good news about the manpower in the city. In fact, FOX 5 News has learned that there are fewer than 1,700 Atlanta Police officers available to protect its citizens as of Friday.
“One weekend, we had, I believe, over 14 car break-ins in just one weekend,” Roslyn Smith, Buckhead homeowner.
When crime escalates from a smashed car window to a home invasion, residents go from being ticked off to terrified.
“Really, it's just not enough feet on the street,” Smith said.
Smith lives in one of the Buckhead communities. She is not happy to hear about the latest police manpower numbers for a city that has an authorized strength of 2,039. But in any given Atlanta neighborhood there is nowhere near that number available to patrol.
“It's a fluctuating number, but it's going to be somewhere between 1650 and 1700 officers are the total sworn that are active and prepared to protect the citizens or make an arrest as of today,” said Ken Allen, Atlanta Police Union.
Ballpark figures have the city about 350 officers short right now. Not the approximate 200 discussed last summer.
“I know there is recruitment issues and retention issues. But we would like to see more of a focus on getting the pipeline full of qualified people,” said Smith.
“And we are trying to figure out what else can we do to add on the security we have because now they are escalating from car break-ins to home invasions to casings,” Chris Rich, Buckhead homeowner.
Allen, who spent his adult life trying to protect the public, is now retired. The key he said is the Atlanta Police Department has to become more competitive. A veteran cop in Cobb County, for example, can top out with more than $8,000 additional dollars annually than a comparable veteran in Atlanta.
“We can bring up people's salaries that don't have long-term pension liability that causes the taxpayers additional money, the city additional concerns, but we give them additional opportunity to make the money and the funds exist,” said Allen.
So, it is understandable to find a 28-year-old police officer with a young family going to another municipality. But the city can budget more money for officers by doing things like sending officers to the FBI school in Quantico, Virginia. An officer would get extra money for completing the course. There is also night differential pay. All of these things Allen said can be built into the budget.