KPD officers respond to record number of calls for service
KIRKSVILLE, Mo. —
That's the number of calls the Kirksville Police Department responded to in 2016.
While that number may not mean much to those living in town, Kirksville Police Chief Jim Hughes says that statistic is keeping officers busy.
"We've had a huge increase in calls for service over the last 15 years. It's gone from approximately 16,000 calls for service up to almost 30,000 in that time period."
When you break down the stats from 2016, it equals out to roughly 82 calls per day. Hughes says that with an average of three-and-a-half officers working per shift, individually they responded to almost a dozen calls daily.
"That may not seem like a lot, but it is. Here is the real difficulty with that: When you're busy on a call, you're not out doing preventive patrol, you're not driving around looking for traffic violations, you're not being visible to help deter crime and, to a certain extent, make people feel comfortable that we are out there and we are vigilant."
With all of those calls, sometimes officers need to prioritize responses if multiple issues arise at the same time.
"We prioritize criminal activity over non-criminal activity. We certainly prioritize those things dealing with life safety over those things that are not. If you need us, and you need us there immediately regardless of what we are on, we will drop everything we are doing that is not an emergency and we will get there."
But, Kirksville police aren't the only ones seeing an increase in service calls. The Kirksville Fire Department has also seen an increase over the past several years.
Hughes, who also serves as Kirksville Fire Chief says calls for that department have increased 29 percent over the last 10 years. And emergency calls aren't the only thing keeping firefighters busy.
"I think it's important that the community understands the fire department is incredibly busy. If you look at last year, they handled a little over 1,400 emergency calls. If you look at historical data over the last few years, they handle upwards of 4,000 fire inspections. They will do over 9,000 hours of training."
Hughes says he believes there are multiple reasons for the increase in calls, one of which includes the construction of the alternate route, or bypass around Kirksville.
"We certainly have seen an expansion as far as our business base over much of that intervening time. I think there are more people coming into Kirksville, passing through and coming to do business and so I think it's just a combination of things."
The obvious answer, of course, is to hire more police officers.
But, Chief Hughes says it's not that easy.
"Based on the increase in our call load, the city council authorized us to increase our staffing level -- that's the good thing. The bad thing is because of the officer shortage across the entire state, and actually across the entire nation, we've not been able to fill those positions at the present moment."
The police and fire chief adds that he is pleased with how both officers and firefighters continue to handle the heavy workload.
Currently, the police department is continuing its efforts to recruit new officers.
To learn more about applying to the department, click here.