Police in Vallejo, Calif., located near San Francisco, may soon no longer respond to burglar alarms after the Vallejo City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a proclamation that staffing levels in the police department have declined to the point that it constitutes a public safety emergency. 

Vallejo is the second largest city in the North Bay region of the Bay Area, with a population of around 126,000 and a land area of more than 30 square miles. According to Tuesday’s City Council agenda packet, as of July 22 there were 34 officers assigned to patrol the city, not including nine supervisors. 

The public safety emergency declaration authorizes City Manager Mike Malone and Interim Police Chief Jason Ta to immediately implement a four-phase approach to address the staffing shortage. 

Phase #1, referred to as the Service Model Reduction, had already been partially implemented prior to Tuesday’s vote. SDM has requested clarification from the police department, but ostensibly alarm response to unverified burglar alarms had already been reduced. 

Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), told SDM, while many departments across the nation have staffing issues, Vallejo is an extreme situation. "We know the public highly values police response to the alarms that protect lives and property and hope the department can obtain the staffing levels to provide the response the public desires and funds with their tax dollars," he said. 

Five officers have left the Vallejo Police Department since March, according to city documents. The staffing shortage has become so challenging, the police department has begun rotating one detective per week to work a patrol shift as part of Phase #2 of the mitigation process. 

Phase #3, which has been implemented, called for the police department’s traffic division to be temporarily disbanded. Phase #4, yet to be implemented, will provide additional patrol resources by changing the current 10-hour and 12.5-hour shifts to all 12-hour shifts. 

With an additional three officers scheduled to leave in the next month, police say they may entirely stop responding to some calls in the future. 

According to a city analysis conducted last year, it was discovered that 98% of alarm call events in Vallejo were determined to be false alarms. In 2022, the department responded to 3,627 alarm calls, averaging 10 calls per day, with an average of 23 minutes spent on each call. 

“It is estimated that the department can divert potentially 115 hours per month towards other police services,” the analysis states. “The department is working with the City Attorney’s Office on revising the municipal code relating to alarm calls, as well as organizing future public town halls to discuss the service model change in order to fully implement this service reduction."

A city ordinance requires the police department to respond to burglar alarms. Ta said he is seeking to amend the ordinance, beginning with a series of town hall meetings. The first of those meetings are scheduled to begin Aug. 8.

“In times of great challenge with limited resources, decisive leadership is required to identify priorities, obstacles, and solutions,” Ta stated in a press release following Tuesday’s vote. “These are difficult discussions and even harder choices. I am optimistic that city leadership, elected officials, and the police department can collaboratively formulate a public safety plan that can immediately enhance community safety.”