By Jacqueline Quynh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Aurora Police Department faces a shortage of police officers as crime rises. Wait times on calls for service are also going up in the state’s third largest city.

City leaders say changes are underway.

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(credit: CBS)

“We’re having a staffing crisis right now. We’re having to make a lot of adjustments,” Darin Parker, Deputy Aurora Police Chief said.

The retention problem began in 2020. Since January of that year, Aurora has lost 159 trained officers either through retirement, resignation or termination. It’s limiting the ability for police to be proactive.

“We’ve had to take staffing from some of those units,” Parker said.

There are now five police training programs underway with currently 51 recruits. That’s not enough to immediately replenish the force once they graduate. At the same time, police are looking to employ more civilians to do jobs that don’t require the same training as a uniformed officer to free up staff.

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“When we can see that there are jobs that civilians can do, when properly trained, but don’t require all the training of a uniformed peace officer, we ought to do it,” Mayor Mike Coffman said.

Coffman also blames crime on the pandemic, hampering police work.

(credit: CBS)

“Part of that spike in crime is due to the fact that we were not arresting people for property crimes during the pandemic,” he explained.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson asked city council for more funding to incentivize and retain officers. The mayor hopes to find a way to do that and ensure public safety is not shorthanded.

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“Now that the crime rate is up, people are concerned about crime, and concerned about, ‘where are the police?’ So I’m not hearing about defund the police anymore. What I’m hearing is we need the police in our neighborhood,” Coffman said.

Jacqueline Quynh