Drivers who lock themselves out of their cars may have to hire a locksmith instead of calling the police for help retrieving their keys under a new policy adopted by the city's police department.

The policy, which will officially go into effect on Sept. 1, was drafted to help the police department cope with an increase in calls for assistance that has not been matched with an increase in money to hire additional officers.Rather than responding to all calls as quickly as possible, the new policy requires police to handle the most serious calls first and deal with the rest when they have time.

Some callers, such as those seeking help for lock-outs or car trouble, will likely be referred to area businesses. The Sandy police department is one of the few along the Wasatch Front that still responds to such calls.

Other callers may be told they will have to wait until after the busiest hours for the department, noon to 9 p.m., for vehicle inspection number checks and similar services.

During those peak hours, the police department will have one or two patrol cars ready to respond to the top priority calls, such as crimes in progress, accidents and even lock-outs if a child is trapped in a car.

Less-serious calls, such as those reporting a theft or other minor crime, will take an estimated four hours to answer, according to the new policy. The least serious calls, such as checking abandoned cars to see if they're stolen, will take about a day.

Sandy Police Capt. Bob Wright recently warned members of the city council that they could get complaints from residents who are used to a rapid response to all of their calls.

Wright said handling calls as they come in has led to interruptions of investigations of burglaries, for example, to answer calls about more serious crimes in progress.

That has bruised the feelings of some residents who feel their cases aren't getting enough attention from police officers forced to rush off to the scene of another crime.

Wright said that the new policy will enable police to devote more time to the most serious cases and still handle many of the more routine calls when they can.

"We'll handle them if we have the manpower available. But if we don't, we'll be able to say we'll handle it when we have the time," Wright said.

Councilman Dennis Tenney said that Sandy residents will have to realize that taking care of the most important calls first is the best way for police to protect all citizens.

Mayor Steve Newton said that other city departments will soon be prioritizing their responsibilities as the police have done as a way to cope with tight budgets.