With too much crime and too few officers on the streets, Atlanta police dispatchers routinely hold emergency calls longer than the time in which officers are supposed to reach the scene, an investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. More than 24,000 times from January through July, or in 18 percent of incidents, police dispatchers were unable to assign officers to calls relayed by the city's 911 until after what the department defines as the acceptable total response time had elapsed.
The dispatch delays contribute heavily to what experts describe as abysmal response times to emergency calls: Officers arrived on the scene of the highest-priority calls within five minutes just 9 percent of the time. Slightly more than half the calls in the two categories with the next-highest priorities received timely responses. The delays occur across the city, throughout the day, week after week, on calls both extraordinary and banal. Fights, automobile accidents, reports of prowlers, even sexual assaults often have to wait: one hour, two hours, sometimes longer. By the time police arrive at many crime scenes, suspects – and sometimes victims – have long since left.