I have previously written on NOPD response times as they relate to business burglaries, and I have also written on how Calls for Service can be used to project official Uniform Crime Report (UCR) numbers. Combining those two ideas, it is possible to analyze response times to all likely UCR crimes, and to then use that analysis to project the extent to which increased response times are causing a reduction in official crime statistics.This post attempts to quantify NOPD’s response time woes, while a subsequent post will assess how those woes are impacting official crime statistics in the city.
Response times are determined by taking the difference between a call for service’s creation time with its dispatch time. There are a few ways to analyze changing response times in New Orleans. The first is to compare response time by priority type. There is no priority designation in the publicly available calls for service spreadsheets, but NOPD provided more detailed spreadsheets to The New Orleans Advocate through a public records request.
Responses are dictated by a call’s priority, with three being the highest and zero being the lowest. The vast majority of calls are priority one or two (97.5% in 2014, for example), but every priority has seen fairly dramatic increases since 2013. These increases are shown in the chart below (Quick disclaimer: I went back only to 2013 for the sake of keeping this graphic simpler. The Advocate’s companion piece does a very similar analysis of response time by priority. The data sources and methodology differed slightly, producing slightly different results, but the same bottom line).
Another way to look at increasing response times is to break them down by Uniform Crime Report (UCR) crimes. I’ve previously discussed how Calls for Service can be used to predict UCR totals (see here and here). To show the increasing response times for all UCR crimes (regardless of disposition), I calculated the average response for those crimes over a 30-day period from 2013 to late October 2015.
As can be seen, response times slowly crept up in 2013 and 2014 before skyrocketing over the summer of 2015. They came down for a brief period in September before jumping up again in October.
A final way to look at increasing response times is to expand the analysis to all Person and Property crimes. This shows the degree to which potential emergency Person crimes receive faster responses than non-emergency Property crimes.
The average Person crime (encompassing everything from simple robbery to homicide) received a response in about 35 minutes in 2014, and the average Property crime (burglaries, thefts, et cetera) received a response in about 2 hours and 20 minutes. The average Person crime in 2015 receives a response in a little over an hour, while Property crime responses now take nearly 4 hours on average.
This methodology can be used to break down response times even further. For example, Person crimes can be broken down into violent crime (aggravated battery, homicide, etc.) and non-violent (simple robbery, simple kidnapping, etc.) crimes. As shown in the below chart, violent person, non-violent person and property crimes marked ‘Unfounded (UNF)’ have received much longer response times in 2015 than those investigated under the ‘Report to Follow (RTF)’ disposition.
Violent Person crimes receive the quickest response, although there have been 50 aggravated assaults and batteries in 2015 in which victims had to wait more than 10 hours for a response. Forty-three of these 50 cases (86%) received an UNF disposition.
Charting average response times by crime type and disposition shows that response times for property crimes in particular suffered over the summer. The average property crime between mid-June and mid-July, for example, received a response in 5 hours and 54 minutes. The average property crime marked UNF during that time frame averaged over 10 hours per response.
The very worst of the response crisis appeared to have passed, but response times rose again in October. While response times have suffered in 2015, NOPD is taking clear steps to improve its performance, and the data back this up. The department is working to create an online reporting system for property crimes as well as to streamline its 911 operation. Hopefully these steps, added to a slowly growing police force, will ease the strain on emergency responses and enable faster responses to all crimes.
This post was previously published by The New Orleans Advocate.