ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — In an emergency, seconds count. But a recent assessment from the city’s Office of Internal Audit reveals that the time it takes Albuquerque police officers to show up on the scene after a call has increased over the last two years, but the city is working to improve that.
“Response time” means the time it takes from when a call enters Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD’s) system to the time officers arrive on the scene. Of course, depending on how busy officers are and where the call is coming from, response times can vary. From 2020 to 2021, response times increased by one minute, according to the analysis prepared for the Office of Internal Audit by Federal Engineering, Inc. From 2021 to 2022, they increased by another 15 seconds.
To learn more, KRQE News 13 reached out to APD. They said wait times for non-emergency calls are long as well: “My longest wait time for 242-Cops, is 20-minutes,” said J.J. Griego, the Deputy Chief of Management Services and Support Bureau.
So how fast should APD respond to calls and arrive on the scene? According to the auditor, there’s no national standard for response times. The goal is to respond as quickly as possible to each call.
APD does set its own goal of responding to immediate life-threatening situations (called “Priority 1” calls). They aim to get on the scene within seven and a half minutes of receiving info at dispatch. That goal is based, in part, on historical response times, the auditors note.
Data from March 2022 through June 2022 shows that police often met that goal. Although the average response time during that period was a few seconds longer than the goal, 98% of responses did meet the goal.
The assessment does point out that APD’s citywide response times appear to be in line with those of similarly sized cities. But within Albuquerque city limits, response times do vary a bit. Between 2020 and 2022, the time from when the 911 call is radioed to dispatch to when an officer arrives on scene for priority one calls took the longest, on average, in the northeast and northwest part of the city.
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Response times vary by command area. Data from CABQ, map imagery from UNMRGIS/MRCOG.
A shortage of staff can be one of the biggest barriers to fast response times, the auditors note. But they add that it’s difficult to tell just how much of an impact staffing at APD has had on response times.
In 2015, response times increased, and some blamed staffing issues. Since then, APD has taken steps to improve response-related staffing. According to the assessment, APD is authorized for 154 staff at the Emergency Communications Center, but as of the time of the assessment, there were 129 full-time employees.
In September, APD announced new staff positions at the Emergency Communications Center. At the time, Police Chief Harold Medina acknowledged issues.
“We truly need to ensure that we get to calls faster,” Medina said in September. “Sometimes there’s been outliers where people are put on hold 40 minutes, and we need to correct that.”
The assessment does credit APD for becoming more transparent about response times and responding to community concerns. In particular, the auditors note that APD has used SPIDR Tech, which sends a text message to people who dial 911 to let them know APD received their call and allows for user feedback.
Some of that feedback, collected from 911 callers between February 14, 2022, and February 21, 2022, show that of 225 complaints, 17 complaints were about how long it took APD to answer the phone. And 18 complaints stated that no officer showed up after the call, and 11 complaints were about officer delays.
The department agreed or partially agreed with all the recommendations from the auditors. Within their responses, APD notes that they will implement further reporting of response times within 180 days. They also note that a new computer-aided dispatch system will be implemented within the next year or two, which could help enhance transparency.