San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman asked the City Council Wednesday to continue providing her with resources required to hire new employees to help the department overcome sworn and civilian staffing shortages.
Zimmerman's remarks came while she presented 2015 crime statistics to the council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. The data showed an increase in offenses.
Councilman Todd Gloria noted that the figures showed San Diego to be near an "historically low" crime rate, but the upward trend was "concerning." He then asked Zimmerman what she needed from the City Council to bolster the San Diego Police Department.
"It's having the ability to increase our academies (for new officers), having the ability to hire our police dispatchers, our crime lab and police officers," Zimmerman said. "We're playing catch-up. It didn't take us one year to get in this situation with our staffing and other issues, and we're not going to get out of it in one year."
The chief said the department was 189 officers short of its budgeted allotment, and had 25 dispatcher vacancies. Two dispatchers are being hired currently, while 73 others are going through background checks, she said.
Retention of experienced officers has been a major problem for the SDPD in recent years, as neighboring agencies have poached cops with offers of higher take-home pay. Among other things, the city and San Diego Police Officers Association have agreed on a contract that addresses pay, and city budgets have directed more money toward SDPD hiring efforts.
Zimmerman's presentation on crime statistics showed an uptick last year compared to the year before. The exact amount of the increase varies because of a change in the FBI's definition of rape.
Using the old definition to create an apples-to-apples comparison, overall crime rose 7.8 percent in San Diego in 2015, the first increase in three years. Under the new definition, overall crime was 8.5 percent higher.
Among the numbers in the report, the SDPD said the number of:
-- murders rose from 32 in 2014 to 37 last year, still a small number for a city of nearly 1.36 million people
-- rapes, a category that now includes oral copulation, sodomy and male victims of sex crimes, climbed from 371 to 556
-- robberies jumped 4.6 percent to nearly 1,400
-- aggravated assaults were up 3.1 percent to just over 3,600
-- burglaries were flat at just over 5,100
-- thefts rose 13.4 percent to 18,933
-- there were almost 5,100 auto thefts, a small climb from the previous year
The bulk of the large increase in the thefts category came from an 8.7 percent jump in vehicle break-ins.
Hate crimes were about the same, 36 last year compared to 37 the year before.
While the number of incidents related to ethnicity and sexual orientation fell, the number of hate crimes involving religion rose from three in 2014 to seven last year -- attributable to actions against Muslims, according to the SDPD.
The 2015 rate of violent crimes was 4.1 per 1,000 residents, down from 5.1 per 1,000 in 2005, according to the report. The property crime rate was 21.3 per 1,000, well below the 35.4 per 1,000 recorded a decade ago.