When people call 911, the waiting time can seem like an eternity. While they only have to wait 10 minutes on average, they feel every one of the 600 seconds that they wait. For the security personnel sector, it also means 600 seconds where they need to hold the fort.
What makes response time so important? It can increase the possibility of catching perpetrators by 4.7 percentage points. For example, if the possibility of catching perpetrators was 45%, a 10% improvement in response time increases that possibility to 49.5%. So let’s look at what affects the average response time for police.
Prioritized by Crime
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the following average response times are true for these kinds of crime:
- Expect help within 5 minutes: If you are reporting a robbery (your property was taken by force, threat, or intimidation) or simple assault (physical harm was attempted or threatened, but there was no actual damage).
- Expect help within 6-10 minutes: If you are reporting a robbery or aggravated assault (generally, an attempt was made to cause serious bodily harm).
- Expect help within 11 minutes to 1 hour: If you are reporting the theft of a motor vehicle, or general theft.
Which crimes are lowest on the priority list?
- If you absolutely need them to come within 5 minutes: Motor vehicle theft and theft (involving the loss of anything of value) are lowest on the priority list.
- If you hope they will come within 6-10 minutes: Theft and property crimes (loss of property without force, threat, or intimidation) are lowest on the priority list.
- If you’re okay with them coming within 11 minutes to 1 hour: Robbery and crimes of violence are lowest on the priority list. Which is good! These types of crime are usually responded to within 10 minutes.
What Can Cause Lower Response Times?
First, fast-growing cities can strain a police force. Generally, the staffing of police forces does not keep pace with the speed of a city’s growth. It wouldn’t make sense–they would need to drop numbers just as quickly, if the city’s growth slowed down.
Second, recessions and government cuts generally mean cuts in law enforcement. If not in personnel, then in gear and other equipment. This lack of either personnel or equipment drives response time up, and lowers the possibility of catching criminals.
Third, some cities strongly advise their residents to only turn to 911 or police lines when they need quick response times. Otherwise, they are encouraged to file their reports online or in person. This helps to keep the lines clear, and allows 911 dispatchers and police lines to prioritize properly.
The Best Police Response Times
(From A Secure Life)
- San Francisco, California 5.46 minutes
- Houston, Texas 5.51 minutes
- Los Angeles, California 6.10 minutes
- New York City, New York 6.69 minutes
- San Antonio, Texas 6.88 minutes
- Austin, Texas 7.15 minutes
- Dallas, Texas 8.39 minutes
- Seattle, Washington State 9.00 minutes
- San Jose, California 9.20 minutes
- Fort Worth, Texas 9.50 minutes
The clear state winners: Texas and California. Expect any other city to take over 9.50 minutes on average. This is also the average time security personnel can expect to wait before receiving some kind of backup. If you are in the security sector, any drills you run should assume police response time of 10 minutes or more.