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An inside look at police response times

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Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 12:00 am

I attended a meeting recently where a member of the public said they called the police twice to report a disturbance, but no one showed up to handle the call. It sounded far-fetched, and after a few follow-up questions we figured out it was another department, not the Lodi Police Department.

That discussion led me to look into the types of calls our officers are handling in the city, and how fast they are responding to them.

LPD handled almost 42,000 calls for service in 2012. That's an average of 115 calls per day.

Now keep in mind, calls come in various shapes and sizes. There are the traditional ones where a person phones 911 or the non-emergency number to report something that they feel the police should be aware of. And sometimes people call 911 for the weather forecast or to ask what time they shoot off the fireworks at the lake — but that's the subject of another column.

There are the "self-initiated" calls, where an officer makes a traffic stop or contacts a person walking down the street. Reports also come to us through the LPD website. It saves you time and gas money if you report a non-emergency incident or something you need for insurance online.

Our employees also took 1,600 reports over the phone.

People walk into to the lobby of the police department each day to report something or have someone sign off a fix-it ticket.

The 42,000 calls last year were handled by police officers, traffic officers, dispatchers, animal services officers, code enforcement officers, reserve police officers, cadets and volunteers.

What types of calls do you think we handled the most in 2012? Take a guess. Burglary? Thefts?

Nope. Our officers responded to almost 6,700 disturbance calls during the year. Those are the people slugging it out, the guy with the loud stereo next door or the gang fight in the park.

No. 2 in the call parade was "suspicious circumstances" incidents. These 6,100 calls were usually something like a guy hanging around the neighborhood who seems out of place. Or the person comes home to find the front door unlocked and they want an officer to check the house to make sure it's safe. Or the reporting party was unable to give the dispatcher enough information to classify the call as a certain type of crime before they dispatched officers to it.

Our officers made almost 5,000 traffic stops last year. That's where they turn on the blue and red lights to stop a car, motorcycle or truck. In addition, they conducted 1,800 pedestrian stops and 600 bicycle stops. Those stops were usually people with warrants, suspects wanted for something, folks riding on the wrong side of the road or cutting across traffic, or someone acting "suspicious."

The out-of-the-ordinary calls included 61 unattended deaths, 122 mental health evaluations, 163 explosives investigations and 355 civil cases. Our traffic services officer and officers on light duty signed off the 553 fix-it tickets in front of the police station. There were 311 missing persons/runway cases and 400 incidents involving stolen vehicles. Our animal services officers handled almost 3,000 calls alone last year.

How long did it take an officer to arrive when someone called for assistance in 2012? It depends on what time of the day or night they called, and how many officers are working that shift.

Calls for service are divided into five categories, with "high priority" calls being the most important. Those are incidents involving weapons and/or where someone is in danger.

According to our response time report, less than five minutes went by from the time the dispatcher answered the phone to the time an officer arrived at a high priority call. The average "travel time" for the officers from the time they were dispatched to the call to when they pulled up at the scene was slightly less than two minutes. There were certain times during the evening and early morning hours that the average time from when the officer received the call over the radio to when they pulled up at the disturbance was less than a minute.

I'm throwing a lot of numbers at you, but I think they give you a little bit of an idea of what your department was doing last year. And hopefully they reassure you that if you call us, we will be there for you.

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