South Jordan Police Department recommends additional police officers to keep crime rates lowFeb 25, 2021 03:05PM ● By Mariden Williams
By Mariden Williams | [email protected]
South Jordan's population is growing fast. So is its crime rate and the amount of time it takes for police officers to respond to emergency calls.
"If we're not able to keep pace with the growth, you're going to see increased response times for those priority calls and longer wait times for our residents with non-priority calls,” said South Jordan Police Chief Jeff Carr at a city budget meeting on Jan. 28. “We're going to see less investigative success as caseloads increase, and we don't have the investigators to investigate those cases. We're going to see more officer burnout, and less proactive policing by officers."
2020 was a bad year for crime. There was a staggering increase in rape, aggravated assault, robberies, domestic violence and even property crime across the entire nation. South Jordan was no exception. On the plus side, South Jordan vehicle lockouts decreased by 95%, due to deceased travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City officials voiced their hopes that once the pandemic is over and people are no longer going nuts from being shut up indoors, those crime rates will go back down on their own. Carr seemed to somewhat agree with these hopes but indicated that the predicted post-pandemic crime dip will likely only be temporary.
"I think it [the crime rate] will level off a little bit, but I think we'll get back to those pre-COVID numbers with the growth,” he said. “The biggest problem we have is just the number of residents that we're going to increase over those years. And it's going to take additional officers to service those calls. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it." said
The problem is, the South Jordan Police Department is having trouble finding willing, qualified candidates.
"The current environment has created this perception of danger and not support,” Carr said. “I have several friends who have kids who were interested in going into policing, and now they're discouraging them from going into policing. We've also seen potential legislative changes that could change the way we do work and make it more difficult."
Even when qualified applicants do surface, Carr says it takes a long time to actually get them trained up and out on the streets.
"Our onboarding process takes a lot of time—three to four months,” he said. “You've got everything from the initial application to physical fitness test; you have a couple rounds of interviews. If they're lucky enough to get through that, then you have a background psychological polygraph, medical and drug screening, four months in the police academy and another four months in field training before they're really of any use to us."
South Jordan currently has around 80,000 residents and 67 police officers. The city is projected to grow to 127,000 people by the year 2040—though South Jordan’s city planner Greg Schindler estimates that the population may actually hit 127,000 as early as 2030. If South Jordan officials want to still have their current ratio of officers to civilians when the population hits 127,000, they're going to need to hire an additional 40 officers between then and now. That means they'll need to hire two new police officers every year from now until 2040—or four each year until 2030, if Schindler is correct.
Over the last five years, the South Jordan Police Department has generally maintained satisfactory hires-to-retirements ratio. But then 2020 happened.
"We had four retirements; two went to other police departments; we had performance issues with a couple; one officer left the state; and we let go one while they were still on probation," Carr said. "We need to stay competitive with other cities. There's other agencies that are out recruiting our officers, and sometimes providing bonuses for their people that they're able to lure somebody over."