Police 911 response slows, but SW prostitution arrests rise

City police are taking longer to respond to top priority 911 calls today than they did when staffing levels were higher four years ago -- a statistic that one police official calls "the canary in the coal mine."

Deputy Chief Sharon Lubinski said so far in 2004, it has taken police an average of 8 minutes to respond to Priority 1 911 calls, from when dispatch receives the call to when police arrive on the scene.

In 2000 police Priority 1 response averaged 7.3 minutes, or about 42 seconds faster, she said. Priority 1 calls include violent crimes and injury accidents.

(In 2001, response time was 7.6 minutes, in 2002, 7.7 minutes and in 2003, 8 minutes.)

Said Lubinski, "The heart of our work is 911 calls; Priority 1 is the top priority of the top priority. It bears some close watching on the part of the City Council and the Police Department."

Lubinski presented a series of crime statistics to the City Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee Nov. 24. She said Priority 2 response time has risen from 19.5 minutes in 2000 to 22.3 minutes in 2004, or by about two minutes, 48 seconds.

Priority 2 calls are time sensitive but not immediate emergencies, such as a juvenile disturbance.

The report said Part I crimes had dropped by 11.1 percent, and by 3 percent citywide, between 2003 and 2004. (Part 1 crimes are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and theft of a motor vehicle.)

However, Southwest prostitution arrests are up -- 186 percent from 2003 (43 arrests) to 2004 (123 arrests).

Southwest's 5th Precinct now has more prostitution arrests than any other city precinct.

5th Precinct commander Kris Arneson said it's not that there are more Southwest prostitutes, but that prostitution arrests have a higher priority.

"Where you have prostitutes, you have narcotics and increased robberies," Arneson said. "It was part of the plan to decrease robberies. It think it's worked, because we've had a 10 percent decrease in robberies in the summer and fall."

Arneson credited stepped-up efforts by Community Response Team, led by Lt. Susan Piontek.

Other noteworthy data:

– Sixteen presidential campaign visits this year cost city taxpayers $76,634 in overtime costs. The federal government does not reimburse the costs. Lubinski said a simple visit -- airport to Convention Center to airport -- requires 100 officers, some for a couple of hours, some for a full shift. Some officers are diverted from regular assignments.

– The number of sworn officers in Southwest's 5th Precinct dropped nearly 10.9 percent from 2003 to 2004, from 134 to 122. Citywide, sworn officers decreased 12 percent this year, from 709 to 624.

– The Family Violence unit dropped from 20 investigators to 14 in the last two years. In the same time period, the Narcotics unit dropped from 13 investigators to nine.

– Reports of graffiti are up, but because of budget cuts timely reports and follow-up has decreased.

– 5th Precinct police officers seized 58 guns as part of criminal investigations so far in 2004, a 10.8 percent decrease compared to last year.