Much has been made of NOPD’s response time struggles over the last few months. Increasing response times had both systemic and life-or-death consequences on New Orleans and spurred immediate policy changes from the police department. It has been three months since The Advocate and WWL-TV debuted the “NOPD: Call Waiting” series, and a dramatic drop in average response time can be readily seen. There are a number of different ways to see just how far response times have fallen since peaking last summer.
The first way to evaluate response times is by looking at all calls. I broke down the average of all Calls for Service that received a dispatch in a given month and charted it in the graph below. The January data, compiled on Jan. 26, show that NOPD was averaging just over 40 minutes per call in January 2016. This is 12 minutes less than the average in January 2015 and over 40 minutes less than the average NOPD response during the peak of the response time crisis in July 2015.
Another way of looking at changing response times is to look at just Priority 2 emergency calls. The publicly available NOPD data does not break down Calls for Service by priority, but records obtained through a public-records request for more detailed 2015 Calls for Service do. As can be seen in the chart below, responses to Priority 2 calls fell from nearly 15 minutes over the summer to just over 10 minutes in December. There’s a very strong correlation between overall response times and Priority 2 response times, so it is reasonable to assess that responses to Priority 2 calls in January 2016 are as low if not lower than they were at any point in 2015.
Average Response to Priority 2 Call, 2015. Source: NOPD.
It is also useful to break down average response by NOPD district in order to see where NOPD has been most effective in reducing its response times. The 3rd District (1 hour 23 minutes), 5th District (59 minutes) and 7th District (51 minutes) saw the biggest drops in average response times between July and December. The 7th District, encompassing New Orleans East, still has an average response of over 2 hours as of December, but every other district was around an hour or less.
There were 203 NOPD beats (patrol assignment within a district) that received over 50 calls for service in July 2015. Of those 203 beats, 173 (85 percent) had a quicker average response in December than they did in July, and 90 of those 173 beats were more than 30 minutes quicker on average in December than in July. Only 5 beats that received 50 or more calls for service in July averaged a 30 minute slower response in December.
NOPD has announced changes in how it will deploy officers after Mardi Gras, yet it is worth noting that response times have fallen steadily since the end of October. This alone is reason for optimism, but it is also worth noting that January was NOPD’s best month of 2015 before response times skyrocketed. Paying attention to this issue can only help in avoiding a similar increase in 2016.
This post was previously published by The New Orleans Advocate.