How San Diego reports the Police Department’s performance to the public today is substantially simpler than it was two decades ago.

The city’s annual budget used to measure neighborhood involvement, community satisfaction and many other metrics of a police officer’s job. Today, just two metrics remain: crime rates and response times.

When the mayor and council members talk about cutting or growing the Police Department’s budget each year, they more often talk about the impact to crime rates and response times than anything else.

As Bill Lansdowne has molded the Police Department since he became police chief in 2003, he’s also emphasized the value of response times in his decisions. When faced with budget cuts, he’s dismantled community programs and proactive units to spare patrol officers, who handle emergency calls.

Given the importance of these two metrics, I found a new report on police response times especially interesting. For the first time in a decade, response times worsened across every call category last year.

Police assign calls into five different categories of seriousness. The highest level calls involve imminent threat to life while the lowest level calls are considered minor requests like parking violations.

The graphic above highlights how response times changed for the highest priority calls over the last decade. Police say that category explains why response times worsened across all other categories last year.

First, it’s worth noting that response times for the highest priority calls are still better than a decade ago when police had hundreds more officers and handled more calls. The gradual uptick in the last two years is what appears more concerning.

At a City Council meeting last month, police said a spike in emergency calls stressed available resources and caused officers’ responses to less serious calls to take longer. Last year, police responded to more emergency calls than any other year in the past decade.

Police said the total number of 911 calls they received increased slightly last year, but also reported responding to the lowest number of calls in the past decade. Many calls, Asst. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at the council meeting, are informational in nature and don’t require an officer to respond.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

 

 

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    This article relates to: Government, News, Public Safety
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    Written by Keegan Kyle

    14 comments
    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    200 less cops sounds like a good start to me. The local police are about as good for the local honest citizen as our local politicians are. I don't know if it was high level corruption that lead to low, or low level corruption that lead to high, but no level of San Diego government is helping the common man, police included.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    200 less cops sounds like a good start to me. The local police are about as good for the local honest citizen as our local politicians are. I don't know if it was high level corruption that lead to low, or low level corruption that lead to high, but no level of San Diego government is helping the common man, police included.

    Bob Jones
    Bob Jones subscriber

    With the drug cartel violence spilling over into San Diego on a regular basis our region can expect unprecedented crime levels in the near future. What will our politiicians do about it?

    rwj5125
    rwj5125

    With the drug cartel violence spilling over into San Diego on a regular basis our region can expect unprecedented crime levels in the near future. What will our politiicians do about it?

    Hank Pfeffer
    Hank Pfeffer subscriber

    real crime must be going up, as more people become more desperate.

    Hank Pfeffer
    Hank Pfeffer

    real crime must be going up, as more people become more desperate.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    When you look at the response time for E going from 6.3 to 6.4 I have to ask are they really getting true 6 second resolution in their methodology and where are the rest of the decimal places? I like to see what the rounding error is.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    When you look at the response time for E going from 6.3 to 6.4 I have to ask are they really getting true 6 second resolution in their methodology and where are the rest of the decimal places? I like to see what the rounding error is.

    James Kistner
    James Kistner subscriber

    Calls for service and reported crimes are not necessarily related. 911 calls and injury accident calls are just two examples of high priority calls that often do not have any relationship to reported crime. A huge number of 911 calls end up being nothing at all. Conversely, many crime reports come in as low priority calls because the crime has already occurred and the criminal is long gone. Many of those calls sit for hours or even days before an officer responds.

    pdblue
    pdblue

    Calls for service and reported crimes are not necessarily related. 911 calls and injury accident calls are just two examples of high priority calls that often do not have any relationship to reported crime. A huge number of 911 calls end up being nothing at all. Conversely, many crime reports come in as low priority calls because the crime has already occurred and the criminal is long gone. Many of those calls sit for hours or even days before an officer responds.

    Thomas Morales
    Thomas Morales subscriber

    So, are our police personnel responding to urgent, high-priority calls that are not related in any way to crime, or what?

    Tomas
    Tomas

    So, are our police personnel responding to urgent, high-priority calls that are not related in any way to crime, or what?

    Lucas OConnor
    Lucas OConnor subscriber

    We're down, what? 170 or so sworn officers from 2005? Seems like we might be finding a tipping point.

    lucasoconnor
    lucasoconnor

    We're down, what? 170 or so sworn officers from 2005? Seems like we might be finding a tipping point.

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