RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) — Police advocacy groups say current shortages are not just a recruitment issue, but a retainment one to keep existing veteran officers.

“The veteran officers aren’t given any incentives to stay so you see more of them leaving,” Rick Armstrong with the Raleigh Police Protective Association said.

The shortage has continued growing with a current 168 police openings in Raleigh compared to 102 six months ago.

“They’re working longer hours, they’re working harder, they’re putting up with a lot more stress because of the longer hours. There’s no end in sight,” Armstrong said. “With the summer months coming, crime will inevitably go up and so that’s just going to add more stressors.”

Recently, activists protested for a better pay raise in Raleigh, more than the approved two percent cost-of-living adjustment for all city employees.

“Not only should they get a cost of living raise, but they should go above the cost of living to retain who we currently have,” Armstrong said.

To help bring experienced officers in, Raleigh Police Department is offering signing bonuses up to $5,000 for new hires with police experience.

“It’s really hard to increase the numbers when the applicants aren’t there so recruiting is essential,” said Brandon McGaha with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association.

He says they can do this not just with pay, but policy-driven toward enhancing public confidence in police, like North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Reform signed last year.

The association is also pushing for a bill that would reduce working years before full retirement from 30 to 25.

“To have that end in sight and they don’t have to work 30 years to get there, hopefully it will help retain them if they feel like it’s not such a mountain to have to climb to get to retirement,” McGaha said.

Raleigh Police will host a recruitment event on May 7 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 2320 Law Enforcement Drive in Raleigh.