LIMA — Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia was pleased to report what he hopes will hold up as lower crime statistics for the county during the Allen County Republican Party luncheon Friday at the Lima Eagles. However, his department, like many, is continuing to work to keep those numbers down while also dealing with lower-than-desired manpower levels.
Numbers for infractions like robberies, assaults and car thefts are down as of the end of November, Treglia said, a trend that has been continuing since the days of the COVID-19 epidemic. However, his office is working to keep those levels down with nine fewer deputies than his department is able to employ.
“Obviously the crime statistics are down, so obviously things are working,” he said. “But keep in mind, [a lack of law enforcement officers] is across the nation.”
This need for more officers in law enforcement was felt even before COVID. A 2019 report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police revealed that 78 percent of agencies surveyed reported difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates to the point where half of all agencies surveyed reported having to change policies to try to increase their chances of meeting their need for applicants. This is combined with the issue of keeping officers currently on the roster, with many choosing to either retire as soon as possible or find other occupations.
“This state and other states are losing officers at a rate of 47 percent,” Treglia said. “Everyone is doing more with less, and they’re making it work and we’re trying to figure it out.”
Initiatives like the Sheriff’s Office Cadet program are making some inroads in addressing this shortage, but a culture shift is needed in how the public perceives law enforcement before this issue can be resolved, according to Treglia.
“We’ve got great support, no doubt about it,” he said. “I can’t deny the fact that no one here is trying to defund the police. We’re just trying to get young kids to see that this is still an honorable profession.”
In the meantime, Treglia said he was glad to see the trends continuing to move in a positive direction, with simple assaults down from 375 in 2022 to 336 so far this year, burglaries down from 163 to 118, aggravated assaults down from 62 in 2022 to 28 this year and robberies down from 12 in 2022 to five this year. Automotive thefts are slightly down from 40 last year to 34 this year. Murder and manslaughter are even with last year, with one murder and zero manslaughter cases in both years.
The sheriff’s office has also been working with the courts on keeping non-violent offenders from crowding the county jail, reducing the jail population from around 300 in the days before COVID to 132 as of Friday.
“We’ve worked with the judges and they’re doing more probationary things, keeping them out and getting them probation officers,” Treglia said.