Denver police look to improve response time to emergencies

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DENVER — It’s taking Denver Police an average of nearly two minutes longer this year to respond to high-priority 911 calls.

Sonny Jackson, Denver Police spokesman, says the department suspects they could be adding about a minute on the dispatch side and a minute on the police side.

They’re analyzing the increase in response time to see how they can tighten it up. They realize the significance because in their jobs–even seconds matter.

“I called the police and nobody came,” says the neighbor of a woman allegedly murdered by her husband on Nov. 18 at 1535 S. Carlan Ct.

The unidentified neighbor says she tried to help Loretta Barela, 44, escape the clutches of her husband, Christopher Perea, but Denver Police didn’t show up for about an hour.

“They definitely could have saved her if they would have [done] their job right,” says Barela’s adult daughter.

Domestic violence calls in-progress like this are highest priority, so are calls of an active shooter and an explosion.

But for the first 10 months this year, it’s taking police, on average, nearly 16 minutes, (15.75) to respond to these types of urgent calls.

For the first 10 months of last year, the average was just over 14 minutes (14.03).
All of last year, response times averaged 14.21 minutes.

And for 2010: 13.49 minutes.

It’s an increasingly upward trend–even though calls are lower. For the first 10 months, 911 calls stand at 77,297, compared to 88,511 in 2011 and 92,417 in 2010.

“We’re looking at things where we lost time in our response. And we’re looking at why that is going on. But there is no hard and fast answer,” says Jackson.

Police suspect they might be adding to their response times because of calls that perhaps shouldn’t be classified as highest priority, like welfare checks.

“We open up a ticket on it. We don’t get there and all of a sudden we’ve got a major situation going on, a shooting, whatever, that’s in progress. We divert to that and that call stays open longer than we want it to, before we get it closed out. That increases your number,” says Jackson.

Plus, the department has about 80 fewer officers this year.

But voter approval to increase taxes for police will help–although not for more than a year.

“The more people you have to respond to these things, it’s going to make a difference,” says Jackson.

That’s why the department is already shifting more available officers to patrol.
Denver residents say they’re glad police are addressing the problem.

“I feel pretty safe in Denver already. But definitely, if police response times keeps going up, it makes me feel less safe as a citizen,” says one young man in his 20’s who didn’t want to give his name.

“Our individual response time in neighborhoods that’s not exactly the best. That is not acceptable, because you know the rich get their police really quick,” says resident Sandy Allen.

Police will add to their force when they turn 35 jobs over to civilians–and put those officers on the street.

Police will also look at where they place officers within their districts so they can better respond to emergencies more quickly.

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