PUEBLO, Colo. - The job of a police officer can be a dangerous one, but Pueblo police say being understaffed by two dozen officers makes the job even more hazardous. Officers say being short staffed is compromising their safety and not allowing them to respond to calls as fast as they want, forcing them to be more reactive than proactive.
Activists with the American Indian Movement say if police are too busy to be out patrolling, they'll do it themselves. It's welcome news to neighbors on Pueblo's east side who are on edge following reports of three sex-related crimes involving children in their neighborhood in the past month.
"Somebody's got to be responsible for watching these children. Somebody's got to be responsible for finding out who's doing this and trying to help stop it," said neighbor Sue Doyle.
Last Friday, it took an officer about 90 minutes to respond to an attempted child abduction. When the call came in, the child was with his mother. Neighbors question why it took an officer so long to get out there.
Police said when they got the call of an attempted child abduction at around 3:20 p.m., they had eight officers patrolling around that area, all of whom were tied up at calls. Here's a breakdown of what officers were working on: Three officers were responding to a suicidal person, one officer was at a call for a burglary alarm, another officer was dealing with a pedestrian interfering with traffic, one officer was at a fire, another was dealing with an abandoned vehicle and one officer was responding to a report of a missing child. Police said five out of those six calls should have had at least two officers responding, but only one of them did.
"We had single officers responding to those calls just because we had a need to get there," said Officer Shelly Taylor. "Unfortunately, we make a decision to put ourselves at risk, to go on these calls by ourselves because we know people need us."
Taylor says until more officers are brought in, officer safety will continue to be compromised.
Pueblo city leaders put a hiring freeze on 14 officer positions. Ten officers have been hired and are currently going through the police academy. They're expected to hit the streets in December.