Lack of personnel blamed for low rating in GPD perception survey

Chief Stephen Ignacio stresses that their main objective is not to go out and arrest people but instead to educate people about the EO and the importance of the health and safety of our island. (PNC file photo)
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A total of 877 island residents participated in the GPD Perceptions Survey to gauge the community’s thoughts on the Guam Police Department and its performance.

The feedback was not good, but with the continuing lack of police personnel, GPD Chief Stephen Ignacio said he was not surprised with the survey results which pointed out concerns about crime, police visibility and response time.

“The survey came back with not so good feedback. It boils down to two things or several things. You know one is, of course, the lack of police officers, the lack of police presence … and because of the lack of police officers, the lack of response time or the adequate response time to the calls,” Ignacio said.

Lack of manpower is a problem the police department has struggled with for years. To date, there’s just a little over 300 police officers on the force but not every officer patrols the streets.

“If you look at most of the precincts, they have like 32 to 35 personnel including the precinct commander and down. So if you take out the precinct commander, the operations manager and maybe one or two other staff, we’re looking at maybe just 30 that are actually allocated to the actual work for the precincts,” Ignacio said.

Thirty officers times four precincts equate to about 120 officers on the island’s streets. This means for every one officer, there are 1400 residents to take care of.

In addition, it has to be taken into consideration that some of those patrol officers are also members of the Guam National Guard.

According to the Ignacio, there are currently six police officers on deployment and another one getting ready to deploy for the rest of the year.

“So taking officers from other areas to fill that shortage that impacts operation … let’s say I have other officers at CID, SOD, so if I take them from SOD or CID and put them on patrol, that’s going to affect the follow-up investigations at CID. They’re not going to have enough officers,” Ignacio said.

One of the effects is an increase in personnel overtime but the impact this lack of manpower has on the community was highlighted earlier this week when an elderly Tamuning resident whose home was burglarized five months ago is still waiting for an arrest to be made, despite authorities having surveillance footage and a positive ID on the suspect.

The department’s spokesman, Sgt. Paul Tapao, confirmed that the investigation into the $33,000 burglary was put on hold as CID officers focused their efforts on violent crimes such as the Mangilao homicide, the Route 15 shooting, and the Dededo rape of a 13-year-old girl.