The Austin Police Department is releasing new numbers comparing response times between 2011 and 2017. In 2017, response times for P0 and P1 priority calls are nearly a minute and a half slower.
For P2 priority calls, officers responded about four minutes behind times in 2011. As for P3 priority calls, or those that are the least urgent, police reached callers more than sixteen minutes later.
Michael R. Levy, Former Chair of the Austin Public Safety Commission says he’s been watching public safety in Austin since 1976 and it's never been this bad.
Each call is ranked from P0 to P3, in order of its priority.
P0 calls are the most urgent - those involving victims who are hurt and incidents where police believe the scene is still active. P1 is also urgent.There is still a victim but the suspect may not be at the scene. P2 is less threatening and is for calls that are in progress or may have just ended.
P3 is for calls where no one is at risk.
"I asked a commander if someone is breaking into my house we'd be better off calling Georgetown or Kyle Dripping Springs you'd have a faster response,” Levy adds.
From 2015 to 2016, P1 P2 and P3 times improved by a few seconds. In the grand scheme of things, some say that improvement is small. And as the city grows, so will the number of emergencies.
Corby Jastrow, Board Member of the Greater Austin Crime Commission says our leadership, city council and mayor need to figure out that we're running on fumes and need to increase our team.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler supports increasing the number of police officers.
"That's something that I personally support not just for response times but it also would enable us to do community policing in a way that we aren't right now. We have to consider that in the overall aspect of the budget,” Adler says.
But he says doesn't believe Austin residents are at an increased danger. "I certainly don't think the public should just be looking at response times because Austin as we know is one of the top 4 safest cities in the country when it concerns violent crime. Property crimes are at a 20 year low."
Jastrow says, “Officers are still day in and day out are stressed. Our police services are stressed. The population in the city of Austin versus other cities we are lacking when it comes to the number of officers being employed."
"Look at all the great things in the City of Austin..all the great folks that are moving here families that are relocating here and you look at our violent crimes that have ticked up there is a need. It's showing the population is growing and 94 percent of Austin agrees so."
Mayor Adler says it’s more complex than hiring more officers.
"How many officers...what do we pay them...how do we do community policing...what does that mean about response times...how do we lower crime rates than what we have already done before...and the impact on the budget. All of those things are part of a single conversation. And it's not a conversation we'll be able to have quickly that's why I'm saying it's not just going to be a good part of this year if not the full year to engage the community of that single aspect."