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Struggling To Find Cops, Vallejo Shifts Funds To Paving Projects

VALLEJO (KPIX 5) - The City of Vallejo has $2.5 million to put toward more officers on the streets, but those funds will soon be diverted to repaving because the city can't find qualified candidates to take the jobs.

The Vallejo City Council agreed to shift the funds, which were part of a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2011, to street paving after the city manager and police chief indicated that the money could not be spent by next July.

"I can't hire the officers fast enough," said Vallejo Police Chief Joseph Kreins, who complained of a lack of qualified applicants. "Just saying we can go hire a bunch of people, like we're going to hire a bunch of people to work at McDonald's tomorrow, it doesn't work."

Vallejo has 83 officers today, that's half of what it had before the city filed for bankruptcy five years ago.

"There are a lot of other places looking for police officers.  So we're competing against other agencies," said City Manager Dan Keen.

The City of Vallejo is Behind Schedule in Hiring Police Officers

Many people in Vallejo say crime has gotten so bad over the years that they have taken matters into their own hands. Someone kicked in Lyn Dalen's front gate earlier this year. She says police called it a low-priority crime.

"I have a gun in my bedroom. I lock myself in my bedroom," said resident Lyn Dalen. "I have my gun right by my bed."

The Police Officers' Union doesn't buy the chief's explanation. It claims the city could have come up with competitive compensation packages to attract the new officers.

"What's more important? To fill the pothole in the street or put more cops on the street?" said Rocky Lucia of the Vallejo Police Officers' Association.

The residents who spoke to KPIX 5 seemed to think the cops were essential.

"The need is so great. The hell with the streets," said Dalen.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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