SALEM — Salem police and fire departments responded to a record number of calls for service in 2018 attributable largely to growth in the community, officials say. And that growth isn’t slowing any time soon.
The Salem Fire Department responded to a total of 5,605 calls for service in 2018, according to Chief Larry Best.
The Salem Police Department responded to a total of 79,364 calls for service last year, according to statistics provided by department command staff. That’s a combination of criminal and non-criminal matters, phone calls and lobby requests.
Both fire and police numbers are record highs.
Best said 2018’s numbers represented a 3.6 percent increase over 2017 and a 27 percent increase since 2009.
In 2017, Salem police responded 78,635 calls.
“Salem is a growing community and we continue to have very busy years because of the growth in this community,” Best said.
Major developments, planned and ongoing, not least of which is Tuscan Village, are contributing to that growth.
Best said an earlier study of the impacts of the first phase of Tuscan Village projected an additional 700 to 800 calls in the first year. But with recent changes to those plans, Best said that number could be even higher.
Capt. Joel Dolan of the police department said the impacts of new housing projects and current construction are felt immediately by the department.
“Our police services are already impacted by development through traffic impacts, motor vehicle accidents, thefts, criminal mischief, and with tenants moving into newly developed apartments we are already answering calls for service,” Dolan said.
Best said simultaneous calls are also a big challenge for the fire department. He said about 48 percent of the time fire crews are responding to an emergency there’s another call going on, if not two or three.
Last year was a particularly bad year for fires in Salem, with 32 building fires totaling $2.2 million in property loss. There were three multi-family apartment fires that displaced several families and killed one person.
Best said it’s the second fire fatality in the past 15 years.
“It’s not that often that we get multifamily apartment buildings with significant fires in them and we actually had three,” Best said.
He said about 65 to 66 percent of the calls are for EMS services and about 34 to 35 percent are fires. That ratio has remained consistent despite the spike in overdoses from the opioid epidemic, Best said.
The fire department was able to hire eight more firefighters in 2018 as a result of a $1.5 million federal SAFER grant. That was the first time the department increased its staff in 28 years, officials said.
The police department will also be able to hire two new officers approved in the current budget on top of a few vacancies they are looking to fill, according to civilian administrator Brian Pattullo, who is overseeing the police department on an administrative level.