By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Police departments across the country have struggled in recent years to recruit new officers, so the Philadelphia Police Department decided to change hiring requirements last summer. That effort is beginning to bear fruit.

For years, the Philadelphia Police Department required applicants to be 19 years old with at least 60 college credits. But last summer they dropped the college requirement and raised the minimum age to 22. They’ve built a website and took to social media to get the word out.

“We want the community and the police department to reflect what we have here demographically, and that’s what we work with every single day,” said Sergeant Robert Ryan. “We are working with different communities to sort of get the word out there to say ‘we want you to join.'”

Sergeant Ryan says the department typically gets 5,000 applications a year. While the final numbers aren’t in, there’s been an uptick of more than 20 percent.

“With the change of requirements, the excitement around the police department has increased tremendously.”

But they won’t know if the changes worked until the end of the year, when the first class of recruits graduates from the Academy. Applicants still must pass physical, reading and other tests.

Applications are being accepted January 30th to February 4th.