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More complex 911 calls in Vancouver, WA are resulting in less proactive policing

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(The Center Square) – A recent presentation by the Vancouver Police Department revealed that officers are seeing an increase in call volumes with complexity, leaving gaps in police services.

Since 2018, there has been a 29% increase in 911 calls, with a total of 86,875 calls in 2022, or 238 calls per day. At the end of the third quarter of this year, there have been 66,266 emergency calls. The city anticipates the year-end projection to be slightly higher than 2022.

Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori expects somewhere between 86,000 to 90,000 calls in 2024. Mori added that the department is seeing an increase in calls that require more than one officer. These calls can take up to two hours and the department’s current staffing levels are too low to spread out the number of officers to other police services.

“This takes away time from our officers to do more proactive work [such as] stopping dangerous drivers, trying to check for people who have warrants … and it’s important for us to engage with our community to build those relationships,” Mori said in the Vancouver City Council workshop meeting on Dec. 18. “These officers are going from one kinetic event to the next kinetic event.”

Since 2018, the Vancouver Police Department’s sworn staffing has increased by 16%. In 2022 and 2023, a total of eight additional officers were authorized, with funding stemming from the city’s shart of public safety sales tax revenues passed by Clark County voters in 2022.

Mori said that the department has hired about 60 officers, but not all of them have finished the required training in order for them to officially begin patrolling Vancouver streets. Currently there are 114 officers signed into patrol, according to Mori.

The police department’s initial analysis finds that in order to meet the current demand for police services, there would need to be a one-third increase in commissioned officers as well as an 50% increase in related professional staff. This would require approximately $25 million more in annual expenses, which would need new revenue sources to support.

If the Vancouver City Council decides more funding towards the police department is necessary, a proposed property tax levy may be on voters’ ballots in the general election next year. However, some city officials at the city council workshop meeting questioned if there would be enough time for proper community engagement regarding a proposed levy before next year’s election.

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