Although the Charlottesville Police Department has faced a staffing shortage for several years, Charlottesville crime rates have still declined over the past decade. The Charlottesville Police Department plans to expand staff in order to balance the shortage, and may also hire officers for overtime shifts. “The department currently has 119 sworn officers,” Charlottesville Police spokesperson Lt. Steve Upman said. “There is a three year plan to increase our numbers by 22 officers, however, that is contingent upon City Council’s approval each year and our ability to fill the positions.” The $1.4 million employment plan includes salary and benefits for 22 additional officers. Each position will cost $59,154 annually, and equipment costs for the new officers will be approximately $7,000. Upman said there is no singular cause for the ongoing staffing shortage, but both the number of qualified applicants and the lengthy hiring process for police staff remain obstacles. “Once an individual is hired, they must attend an 18-week police academy and then complete a 14-week training program at our department,” he said. “The amount of time it takes to replace an officer is always a challenge.” Each fiscal year Charlottesville City Council must approve the budget for extra officers. The police department is expected to present this budget to City Council in March. “Budget can be an issue at times, but our City Council has been supportive of our efforts to increase our staffing numbers,” Upman said. City Council Member Kristin Szakos said sufficient police staffing is a priority for the City Council. After a budget meeting Tuesday, she identified City Council’s other priorities for funding. “Funding for schools, funding for [police staff], and funding for parks and [recreation]...are the top [areas] we are looking at for funding,” she said. “We’ve added many new parks over the past couple years [which require] additional staffing as well.” Szakos said City Council will have to consider different sources of revenue to determine how much money can be put towards the department. “What’s going to make a difference in how we approach [police staffing] is how much [money] we have, so…we have to look at increasing taxes, and what our revenue is, and how [each area] is staffed,” Szakos said. Upman said feelings of insecurity in the community persist despite decreased crime. “When there is a perception that a particular area is not safe, it is difficult to change [the public’s] perception,” he said.