City Police are taking longer to respond to top-priority 911 calls today than they did four years ago when staffing levels were higher, and a top Police official calls the statistic "the canary in the coal mine."
Deputy Chief Sharon Lubinski said so far in 2004, it has taken Police an average of 8 minutes to respond to Priority 1 911 calls, from when dispatch receives the call to when Police arrive on the scene.
In 2000, the Police's Priority 1 response time averaged 7.3 minutes, or about 42 seconds faster than today, she said. Priority 1 calls include violent crimes and injury accidents.
(In 2001, response time was 7.6 minutes, in 2002, 7.7 minutes and in 2003, 8 minutes.)
Said Lubinski, "The heart of our work is 911 calls; Priority 1 is the top priority of the top priority. It bears some close watching on the part of the City Council and the Police Department."
Lubinski presented a series of crime statistics to the City Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee Nov. 24. She said Priority 2 response time has risen from 19.5 minutes in 2000 to 22.3 minutes in 2004, or by about 2 minutes and 48 seconds.
Priority 2 calls are time-sensitive but not immediate emergencies, such as a juvenile disturbance.
The report said Part 1crimes had dropped by 9.8 percent Downtown, and by 3 percent citywide, between 2003 and 2004. (Part 1 crimes are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and theft of a motor vehicle.)
Other noteworthy data included:
- Sixteen presidential campaign visits this year cost city taxpayers $76,634 in overtime costs. The federal government does not reimburse the costs. Lubinski said a simple visit -- airport to Convention Center to airport -- requires 100 officers, some for a couple of hours, some for a full shift. Some officers are diverted from regular assignments.
- The number of sworn officers in Downtown's 1st Precinct dropped nearly 7 percent from 2003 to 2004, from 107 to 89, the smallest decline in any precinct. Citywide this year, sworn officers decreased 12 percent, from 709 to 624.
- The Family Violence unit dropped from 20 investigators to 14 in the last two years. In the same time period, the Narcotics unit dropped from 13 investigators to nine.
- Reports of graffiti are up, but because of budget cuts, timely reports and follow-up has decreased.
- 1st Precinct Police officers seized 61 guns as part of criminal investigations so far in 2004, a 30 percent increase compared to last year.
- The internal affairs unit, which investigates complaints against officers grew from three to eight investigators.