DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Detroit Police Department is suffering from its worst manpower shortage in nearly a century.

There are currently fewer officers patrolling the city than at any time since the 1920s. At one point, the Detroit police force was over 5,000. Today, the force is just 1,590 officers strong — and not all of those are on the street.

The city has lost nearly half its patrol officers since 2000 and ranks have shrunk by 37 percent in the past three years alone, according to the Detroit News. It’s so bad that precincts are reportedly left with only one squad car at times.

“This is a crisis, and the dam is going to break,” Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, told the newspaper. “It’s a Catch-22: I know the city is broke, but we’re not going to be able to build up a tax base of residents and businesses until we can provide a safe environment for them.”

It’s important to note that the city’s population has fluctuated greatly over the years. Here’s a breakdown of data segments comparing the number of officers to Detroit residents, according to the report. The city’s current citizen-to-officer ratio is 448 to 1.

  • 1920: 897 officers — population of 993,678
  • 1930: 3,141 officers — population of 1,568,662
  • 1950: 3,548 officers — population of 1,849,568
  • 1970: 3,973 officers — population of 1,511,482
  • 1990: 3,312 officers — population of 1,027,974
  • 2000: 3,139 officers — population of 951,270
  • 2015: 1,590 officers — population of 719,777

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Budget cuts have hit the department and some have left to work elsewhere.

“These officers do the most difficult job in the country, and they need to get paid more,” said Chief James Craig. “It’s hard to keep people when other cities can offer so much more money.”

Craig said he’s making some progress at getting more officers on the force, even if it’s not at the rate he would like.

“Certainly the mayor and I have lots of discussions on what right sizing the police department should look like. I know that we’re looking at adding roughly 480 additional officers into the field. What could I do with that? I could do more,” he said.

The 480 officers include new recruits as well as officers currently on administration duties. Those officers, about 15 percent of the force, could be reassigned to the streets if the department could find qualified citizens to take over some of their responsibilities, police said.

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