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Austin Police staff shortages lead to 30% increase in 911 response times

Austin Police staff shortages lead to 30% increase in 911 response times (Photo: CBS Austin)
Austin Police staff shortages lead to 30% increase in 911 response times (Photo: CBS Austin)
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Recent data from Austin Police shows 911 response times have increased 30% for urgent calls since last year.

The longstanding goal for emergency response times for Austin Police is over 6 minutes.

RELATED | APD reports no police units available to respond to shooting Sunday morning for 12 minutes

Data from Austin Police shows the average response time for ‘hotshot’ calls like shootings/stabbings was just over nine minutes – a 30% increase from 2020.

In March of this year, Austin Police measure top priority call response times were averaging 8 minutes 35 seconds – a 16% increase from 2020.

“To be honest with you, I was not surprised to see those numbers,” said Retired APD Officer Jeff Hellmer.

Hellmer retired from the department in March 2020 as a Sargent with the gang unit. He also spent time with the Motorcycle unit.

He said as we move away from the pandemic lifestyle, Austin Police will see more urgent calls through emergency traffic accidents, domestic incidents and crime.

APD has already seen a 25% increase in top priority calls for April compared to this time last year.

RELATED | Austin police group calls slow response to local shooting a telltale sign

An Austin Fire Department spokesperson said their "performance measure for response time is an average of 8 minutes or less, 90% of the time."

“Having to face that every night you go to work, your computer screen in your car is loaded with calls and you just never get caught up. That can really be demoralizing for those officers,” said Hellmer.

The Austin Police Association attributes the longer APD 911 response times to growing officer vacancies.

APA President Ken Casaday said patrol vacancies are over 130, a level not seen since 2008, he said. Casaday describes officers as “exhausted” with the call load they’re responding to recently.

Last week, an internal email from interim Chief Joseph Chacon detailed the temporary phasing out of some specialized units like Motorcycle officers and DWI enforcement. Some officers who planned to be promoted to Detective will have their promotion put on hold so officers can help fill patrol vacancies.

Austin Police struggled to meet their 911 response time goal before the City Council stopped APD cadet classes following last summer’s social justice protests to rework curriculum under the reimagining public safety initiative.

A 2018 Audit found the total response time for APD emergency calls was over seven minutes.

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A new APD cadet class will start in June as a pilot program but they won’t graduate until the spring of 2021.

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