City & State February 26, 2016  


NYPD response times up even as ‘crime in progress’ calls see major drop

BY BOB HENNELLY

Despite a dramatic decline in the number of “crime in progress” calls over the last three fiscal years, NYPD response times to crimes in progress and non-critical calls are all up, according to the 2016 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report released earlier this month.  

The “end to end” average for a critical crime in progress call went from six minutes and 37 seconds in fiscal year 2013 to seven minutes and 29 seconds in fiscal year 2015. For a serious crime, the NYPD response went from an average of eight minutes and 31 seconds in fiscal year 2013 to nine minutes and 38 seconds in 2015.

Over the same period, non-critical response times increased from fifteen minutes and 58 seconds to sixteen minutes and 17 seconds.

The significant increase comes as the number of calls reporting an actual crime in progress dropped from 419,826 in fiscal year 2013 to 275,032 in fiscal year 2015. The same preliminary report showed that in fiscal 2015 there were 103,872 major felonies, down by more than 6,000 from the year before. Homicides, still near a historic low, rose from 320 in 2014 to 348 in 2015. 

The NYPD did not give an explanation for the increase in response times, instead saying that they were "consistent." "The response times to critical crimes in progress has remained consistent when compared to previous fiscal years," the department said in a written statement.  

Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College, said the troubling trend lines are the consequence of two factors: a police department that has become a top-heavy bureaucracy whose precincts “are running on fumes” and rank-and-file police officers who feel increasingly on the defensive.

“These days officers arrive on the scene and people are already yelling at them, calling them names, and the cops immediately find themselves being recorded on the cell phone cameras of everybody in the crowd,” O’Donnell told City & State. “Cops are willing to put their lives on the line, but now they have to expect to be the target of the tabloids and social media if a call ends badly even if it is through no fault of the cops. This is the result of cops being criminalized.”

O'Donnell said response times have to be in the three- to five-minute range “to be effective, render aid and catch the bad guy.”

“There is this whole giant police bureaucracy, yet for the people that live in the neighborhoods this is what is the essential core function: a quick police response," O'Donnell said.

Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the spike in response times could be attributed to the police force being short staffed at the patrol level and new paperwork requirements related to documenting police activities like stop and frisk.

“Aside from being grossly understaffed, the local precincts have been stripped of patrol officers for other functions. It is common for two police officers in a car to have jobs stacked up and waiting for a response,” Lynch said in a written statement. “Add to that the incredible amount of paperwork that has to be completed before they can respond to the next job and no one should be surprised that response times are down. You need to be a lawyer to fill out a simple stop and question form now. The answer is simple, bring us up to ‘Safe Street Safe City’ staffing levels by hiring another 4,000 officers and remove the outrageous amount of paper work that officers are saddled with and response times will improve dramatically.”

Last June Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council committed to hiring an additional 1,300 police officers.  

The press office for de Blasio was emailed the excerpts from the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, but has not responded to requests for comment on the response time data. The Mayor's Management Report is mandated by the city charter. 

Earlier this week at a New York City Council hearing on ambulance response times, Fire Department officials testified that average response times for life-threatening emergencies had also gone up, from nine minutes and 13 seconds in 2014 to nine minutes and 22 seconds in 2015. Officials cited a 17 percent increase in medical emergency calls.