LYNN — Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary said the department’s goal for the new year is simple — increase manpower.
Even with 10 hires last year, and 19, it is hoped, on the way, the department is not able to give the community the policing it deserves, Mageary said during a sit down with the Item. But, the numbers disagree. Crime has gone down 30 percent in the last two years, 16 percent in 2017 and 14 percent in 2018, according to the chief.
The department has 171 officers. By the end of January, three will retire, with more expected to do so by July, and one will be on his way to Guantanamo Bay for a military commitment. Mageary said there are at least three officers who are on long-term injury leave right now.
“This really hasn’t been a big net gain so far in officers but Mayor McGee has recognized our problem,” he said. “He understands that we are understaffed. Due to budget constraints, there was a hiring freeze in the city for a number of years and we didn’t hire for quite a long time. It was affecting us greatly.”
With the challenges of being understaffed, the department had to eliminate the traffic unit, special investigative unit, warrant squad, and take a number of officers from investigative units and put them back to patrol, he said. Even with that, the patrol and drug task forces are still struggling.
“We usually run a 10-car plan but in many, many shifts we are only running six, two-man cars,” Mageary said. “We simply don’t have the manpower to staff everything as adequately as we want to and that affects police services. We want to be a full-service department and give the community the policing that it deserves.”
The department expects a number of new recruits in the new year, according to Mageary. There are nine going into the academy in March and another 10 by late spring, with four possibly being hired with help from a $450,000 municipal staffing grant, said Mageary.
While he is hesitant to talk about crime numbers because things can change year-to-year, Mageary said last year’s numbers are “absolutely tremendous” and really speak to the work being done by the limited number of men and women in the department. He also gave credit to the many working partnerships the department has within the community.
In 2018, overall crime was down 14 percent, including a 77 percent reduction in homicides and a 22 percent reduction in overdose deaths.
“Across the board all our numbers look really good, but when you continue to have the constant grind that these officers are working under, such as the lack of resources and manpower to do all the other things that you want to do, eventually that’s going to catch up with you,” he said. “We are hoping to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Once staffing is under control, Mageary said his department has a tremendous amount of talent he hopes to bring to the forefront. He also has a goal of implementing some of the old units that were eliminated.
The next step is to reach a net gain of new officers with a strategic growth plan to make sure previous losses will not affect the department, he said.
“We want to provide quality policing for the community and improve the quality of life for the residents in this community and maintain or improve on the numbers that we have,” he said.