(Editors note: This story has been in the works since April. This will be the last story on Brookhaven from Crier reporter Rebecca Chase Williams as she has qualified to run for the Brookhaven city council).
It took the DeKalb County Police Department four months to answer a request from The Crier on its response times, but finally the numbers were provided in August and look good.
In the North Precinct, the average response time for calls from Jan. 1 to July 31 look like this: For Violent Crimes Priority 1 calls (immediate threat, crime in progress, suspect in area) the average response time was 5 minutes and 49 seconds. For Priority 2 calls, (crime already committed, suspect not in area, no threat of harm) which make up the bulk of the violent crimes, the average response time was 13 minutes, 38 seconds.
DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller told The Crier, “I view the numbers as decent to good.”
He said it is the goal to answer all 911 calls within 10 seconds and to respond to all calls as quickly as possible.
When the calls come in the 911 operations assigns the type and priority of the call. For property crimes, the response times are somewhat slower, especially for the lower priority calls where a delay not likely to adversely affect the investigation or there will be no change in the physical evidence.
DeKalb North Precinct response times for Property Crimes Priority 1 – 7 minutes 38 seconds, Priority 2 – 17 minutes 15 seconds, and the bulk of the calls, Priority 3 – 20 minutes 5 seconds. The actual call sheets with every call recorded show that the time from the call is received to the officer arriving on the scene can range from several minutes up to two hours for both violent and property crimes.
Miller said the response times are regularly reviewed both as a management tool and to spot problems.
“We look at what’s reasonable,” he said. “There are a lot of factors such as traffic or other motorists. If we get a complaint, we look at it.”
Just to compare, the response times for smaller police departments with much less area to cover tend to be somewhat faster. The Dunwoody Police average is 6 minutes and 33 seconds for all calls combined. Chamblee reports their response time for Priority 1—4 minutes, Priority 2—5 minutes, 14 seconds, Priority 3- 6 minutes 53 seconds.
Miller confirmed that the DeKalb Police Department numbers are down right now with 135 vacancies for police officers. The department is trying to fill those vacancies but is also planning for the city of Brookhaven to eventually create its own force.
“We will continue to protect Brookhaven until they tell us they don’t need us,” said Miller.
Asked whether the North Precinct will move or close, Miller said all options were on the table. If the proposed Chamblee annexation passes in November, putting all of DeKalb north of Interstate 85 into municipalities, Miller agreed that it was likely the North Precinct would be merged into the other precincts. DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader has suggested the $2.9 million in stimulus funds set aside to build a new North Precinct be used instead for an animal control facility. Miller suggested that the police training facility in Lithonia is badly in need of renovation as well.
Miller said that county officials are meeting weekly to form contingency plans for future staffing. “It’s a numbers game. We think any changes are easily six months away. That will give us time,” said Miller.
Miller added that even when Brookhaven forms its own police department, Brookhaven residents are still DeKalb residents. “If something major happens, we still have a responsibility to respond. We will provide whatever resources are needed,” said Miller.