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New stats show NOPD response times improving

29th March 2016   ·   0 Comments

NOPD officials said last week that the department has successfully reduced the amount to time it takes for officers to respond to residents’ calls for assistance. But the numbers also show that more work needs to be done to further reduce NOPD response times, which were criticized last year as some of the longest among U.S. law enforcement agencies. reported Wednesday that data provided by NOPD officials show a 40 percent drop in average response times to emergency calls for assistance over a four-month period that ended in February. In October, the average response time was 20 minutes but that time had been reduced to an average time of 11 minutes, according to the records provided by the NOPD.

NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison attributed the shorter NOPD response times to improved deployment strategies and a better accountability system.

“I heard you loud and clear toward the end of the year, when the citizens of New Orleans (and) visitors told us we’re taking too long to get to calls,” Harrison said at a Monday news conference outside NOPD headquarters. “Overwhelmingly, citizens said, ‘Chief, this is what you should be focusing on.’ so that’s exactly what we’ve started doing.”

Last fall, an analysis by Times-Picayune and WVUE found that the average response time over the first nine months of 2015 was 73 minutes, up from 15 minutes in 2011. Residents in certain parts of the city —like eastern New Orleans and Gentilly— had to wait even longer for police to arrive, sometimes as long as two hours.

The analysis also found a wide disparity between NOPD response times for emergency and non-emergency calls for assistance. On the average, wait times were considerably higher for calls for crimes like burglary or car theft compared to calls for more violent crimes like armed robbery and rape.

But wait times were long for even some violent crimes like aggravated battery, for example, for which the average wait time jumped from 15 minutes in 2011 to 75 minutes over the first nine months of 2015.

Although the average response time for non-emergency calls for assistance have reportedly dropped over the four-month period that ended in February, the average time is still considerably long with residents waiting 68 minutes. Over the first nine months of 2015, the average response time for non-emergency calls was a dismal 125 minutes.

The lengthy NOPD response times have eroded the public’s faith in the department and make it difficult to gauge the crime problem in New Orleans. With crime victims and witnesses sometimes leaving the scene of a crime after waiting for hours for police to arrive, those reports of a crime act are classified by police as “unfounded,” which lowers the overall number of crimes logged in NOPD crime statistics.

The slow NOPD response times have been attributed in part to the department’s manpower shortage. Over the past few years, the NOPD has been losing officers to retirement and defections faster than it can replace them. Since New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in 2010, the NOPD has lost more than 400 police officers.

In an effort to boost its ranks, the City of New Orleans and the NOPD have employed a number of strategies including convincing the New Orleans City Council to relax the residency rule that requires police, firefighters and EMS workers to live in Orleans Parish, persuading the Civil Service Commission to scrap the requirement that NOPD recruits have completed at least 60 hours of college credit and offering veteran NOPD officers bonuses for successfully recruiting new NOPD officers.

The Landrieu administration has said that the City of New Orleans needs 1,600 officers to keep residents throughout the city safe. The NOPD currently has about 1,100 officers.

The NOPD announced in January that it would re-assign 94 officers working desk duties to street patrols.

In other NOPD-related news, Mid-City residents told WWL News last week that property crimes are becoming a major problem in that part of New Orleans.

Mid-City residents who live near the intersection of Toulouse and North Saint Patrick streets said crime is usually not an issue in their neighborhood. However, the residents said that they have witnessed a noticeable rise in the number of cars that have been stolen and the number of car windows that have been smashed.

Home surveillance cameras routinely capture images of people driving around and checking for unlocked cars. According to one neighbor, a stolen car found weeks later had bullets, marijuana, electronics and jewelry in it.

“What’s the end result? It’s going to be a lot of great New Orleans citizens who make this city what it is, are going to leave,” Mid-City resident Rick Olivier told WWL. “I mean, if you’re at the top of the pile and you have enough money where you can completely insulate yourself from all of this, then it doesn’t affect you. But for normal people like us, it affects us a lot.”

Homeowners say they pay $225 a year for the Mid-City Security District Patrol and don’t feel they are getting their money’s worth.

This article originally published in the March 28, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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