How Longer Police Response Times Can Deflate Crime Count

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A 911 call was made on October 15, 2015, to report a New Orleans battery incident involving a relatively minor use of force. Police arrived nearly a half-hour later, found no evidence of a crime having occurred, and went on their way. The reality of the situation was quite different, according to a report published by The New Orleans Advocate. In actuality, a car had blown through a stop sign just after 11 p.m. A 64-year-old man visiting from San Diego was nearly hit by the car and exchanged angry words with the driver, who a witness says assaulted the tourist. The victim was ultimately paralyzed, reports FiveThirtyEight.com. The emergency medical service arrived 13 minutes after the 911 call was placed. The ambulance left with the injured tourist eight minutes before a police officer reached the scene. Finding no victim, the officer marked the call “unfounded.”

The incident is an egregious example of the effect that lengthy police response times can have on a city’s crime totals. Over the course of the hundreds of thousands of incidents that take place each year, long response times can lead to officers recording fewer incidents as crimes, which can hurt the reliability of crime totals tallied by the FBI when the agency compiles national statistics. And ultimately, these delays can erode public confidence in the police. An analysis of 2016 data from three cities, New Orleans, Detroit and Cincinnati, and found that as response times go up, the likelihood that a crime will be found goes down. Indeed, in all three cities, when police took more than two hours to respond, they were over 2.5 times more likely to report they’d found no evidence that a crime had occurred.

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