Low staffing numbers keeping some suspects out of Pierce County jails

Crime is up in Pierce County, but jails are not at full capacity and a big reason is due to low staffing numbers.

According to recent numbers from August, car break-ins are up 29%, burglaries at businesses are up 45%, and stolen cars are up 111%.

However, even if a suspect is caught for one of these crimes they most likely will not end up in jail in Pierce County.

"We have enough space in jail. The problem is we don’t have deputies to work those other spaces where we could house more inmates," said Sergeant Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Moss says there are 2,000 beds in the jail, but the department only has enough staff working to be able to fill about a quarter of those beds.

Right now, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department says out of 262 corrections deputies positions there are 55 vacancies.

PCSD officials believe that number will increase to 75 deputies by the end of the year.

"I believe we lost 28 deputies over this entire year, but 20 of those came all within the summer and put us to, pretty much, a staffing crisis in the jail, at this time," said Moss.

Moss says some reasons for low staffing numbers are due to corrections deputies going to different departments with better pay, or leaving the profession altogether.

Burnout from overtime is also not helping the situation.

According to numbers FOX 13 News obtained, in July there were 188 times corrections deputies had to work mandatory double shifts.

In comparison, in January there were 65 instances of forced doubles, and in February there were only nine instances of forced doubles.

At this point, suspects for most misdemeanors, and even some felonies are net getting booked into the jail due to the issue.

"Everybody will tell you they do want people held accountable for the crimes they are committing. But if we don’t have anybody willing to step up and fill these roles, we’re going to have to continue to operate at a lower staffing level, and a lower inmate housing, which is not going to be good for the community, where we’re going to see more booking and releasing," said Moss.

He says if staffing levels continue to decline, more drastic measures may be considered.

"We need the help from the community to recruit people to work in this profession," he said.

Moss says the training needed to become a corrections deputy is about three months.  In comparison, it takes about 10 months to a year to become a sheriff’s deputy.

For more information on the process click here.