The Lompoc Police Department is set to launch a Special Investigations Unit this month.
Officials say the department just hasn’t had enough officers to dedicate their time to investigate violent crimes. This new unit will help address that issue.
"We definitely need that.. definitely," said resident Rosemarie Bourdony.
"I think it'll be a good thing. I think we need it in Lompoc. There's been a lot of shootings and I know they're understaffed so I think it's the best thing," said resident Rusty Decker.
An understaffed department has been an issue for years, according to Mayor Jenelle Osborne.
She says the problem hasn't been so much a lack of funding but more a lack of applicants, with surrounding communities offering competitive pay and retention programs.
According to the police department, three new hires will be starting the police academy this weekend. If they successfully complete the program, they’ll be assigned to patrol to replace the officers being moved to the new investigations unit.
"With the new hires being able to fill in the basic position of patrol, we can return some of our officers to the special investigative unit," Osborne said.
A total of three officers will be moved to focus on a major issue of concern - shootings and violent crimes.
"We have had a lot of crimes for a long time here in Lompoc and it's so bad that I am scared to even let my kids walk to the store," Bourdony added.
According to the police department, a total of 41 shootings have happened since January 1 of this year.
"You feel the impact even if you don't live in that neighborhood, so to reinstate all of these positions is really, really important. It's a top priority for myself and the rest of the city council because our community deserves to feel safe no matter the neighborhood they live in," Osborne said.
It's been nearly four years since the department has had an investigations unit or a gang task force. The unit is set to start on July 17.
On top of creating the new investigative unit, the city also wants the department to purchase new equipment. In order to achieve this, Mayor Osborne says the city will utilize some of the American Rescue Plan money.
"Without the proper radio and body cams, you know, it's difficult to respond in a consistent manner," she said.
At one point, the department only had 34 officers. Up until this year, the department was funded for 47. Now it's funded for 48 and currently has 37 deployable officers with three others in management. The new hires would bring the number up to 43, leaving four positions open for new hires.
Osborne also adds she appreciates the officers who have stayed with the department despite the lack of staffing and says she is excited to welcome the new hires.
"To the new officers, welcome. We hope that we can be a community that you choose to stay in and that you can contribute to and improve our community by joining us," Osborne said.