RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — To address increasing homelessness in Rapid City, the police department and non-profit organizations are teaming up with the city to make a difference.
Year after year, Rapid City’s police department responds to thousands of calls dealing with homelessness.
“We’ve been the 24/7 caretakers of the vulnerable in our community and what that means is when somebody needs help, a lot of times it’s a first responder that shows up and many times we’re left trying to problem solve and figure out what the best course of action might be,” Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick said.
With the department understaffed, officers are carrying a heavy workload.
Mayor Allender says that an officer here at the Rapid City Police Department responds to nearly 2,000 calls a year, which is almost double the national average. Allender says 65 percent of the calls are related to a homelessness issue.
“So we are adding police officers and in 2022 we will add 12 new positions and every year after we will add 6 new positions over and above whatever openings there are until we get the officers down to about 1,000 calls per service per officer,” Allender said.
By teaming up with non-profit homeless facilities in Rapid City, and by hiring on more officers, the organizations hope to address the issue.
“We need to get police officers back to doing police work and we will do that in part by reassigning homeless issues to caseworkers, to the non-profits, to the specialists and get police officers back on the job,” Allender said.
The police and city know this initiative will not happen overnight. But they are hopeful for a long-term solution.
Mayor Steve Allender says the police department currently spends nearly half its budget on homeless-related calls to service. By hiring more officers and having the non-profit organizations handle some of the issues, Allender says more taxpayer dollars will be saved.