Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said the average time it took for his officers to respond to calls greatly improved in November, but he admitted there is still more work to be done.
In November, the average response time for officers heading to "priority 1" calls — which typically include active crimes such as shootings, assaults, robberies or a person with a weapon — was just under 13 minutes. That's an improvement of more than a minute from October, according to police department statistics. From January through April, response times for priority 1 calls were in the 11-minute range. That jumped to over 17 minutes in August.
For "priority 2" calls — which include burglaries, a 911 hangup, or an assault or shots fired incident that just occurred but is not actively happening — the average response time in November dropped by five minutes to about 20 minutes. In January, the average response time for priority 2 calls was about 16 minutes.
Improving officer response times was one the four goals Brown and Mayor Erin Mendenhall laid out in their updated 2021 crime control plan introduced in November. The other three areas of emphasis are lowering crime, hiring more officers and improving community relations.
In June, calls for service for Salt Lake City police were up 20% while the department was at a new low in staffing with 91 officer vacancies. As of Monday, the department was down 57 officers, Brown said.
Increasing staffing is helping response times, he said. But so is a new program in which “priority 3 calls” — which include burglary alarms, civil disputes or motorist assists — are handled by civilian employees who can call victims and take reports. That cuts out the backlog of calls that officers typically respond to one right after another.
"Through this triage program on telephonic response, that takes and eliminates calls out of cues so police can concentrate on 1's and 2's," Brown said.
Brown on Thursday also gave an update on crime in the city over the past 28 days. Citywide crime was down 23% overall during that time period, according to Salt Lake City police statistics, while violent crime was down 1%. Thursday's statistics did not include a fatal shooting early Friday in downtown Salt Lake City.
Brown said while crime is down in the city overall, he recognizes that if a person was a victim of crime in November, that person has experienced a 100% increase in crime over the past 28 days.
"While we are doing everything we can, we know many people aren't seeing or experiencing the 4% drop in overall crime citywide, year-to-date," he said.
As he has in past press conferences, Brown again emphasized that violent crimes and weapons offenses need to be lowered.
"There are too many guns that are on the street being used illegally," he said.