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Why 911 response times are increasing and what is being done about it

911 call response times in Salt Lake City have spiked more than 50% since the beginning of the year, new figures show. (Adam Fondren, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — 911 call response times in Salt Lake City have spiked more than 50% since the beginning of the year according to new figures KSL-TV obtained through a records request.

Police say several factors go into that, but concerned citizens feel vulnerable and want something done about it.

"We're lacking leadership from the chief of police and the mayor of the city," said David Ibarra.

Local businessman David Ibarra's office is in downtown. He's been an outspoken member of the Pioneer Park Coalition calling on the city to address what they've labeled a safety crisis in downtown.

"We're not trending in the right direction. We're trending in the wrong direction, we have a problem," Ibarra said.

Ibarra isn't surprised by the new data on 911 call response times, obtained by KSL-TV which shows they've gotten worse since January.

Take the highest priority calls, on the first row of the above chart: in January the average wait time was 11 minutes as seen in green. Last month it jumped to 17 minutes as seen in red. Priority level 3 calls show an even wider gap from 43 minutes to almost an hour and a half.

Here is a breakdown of the 3 levels of priority calls:

  • PRIORITY 1: Requires immediate attention. All in-progress crimes, major crimes just occurred with at time lapse of five minutes or less for property crimes and fifteen minutes or less for crimes against a person.
  • PRIORITY 2: Minor crimes just occurred and calls requiring immediate attention.
  • PRIORITY 3: Non-emergency calls requiring prompt attention.
  • PRIORITY 4: Service calls and investigative calls requiring an officer at the scene.

"I've had five (911 calls) none of them got answered… I don't know where these statistics are coming from but ours were physical. We were in trouble, called 911 (and) no one came," Ibarra said.

Salt Lake City Police tell KSL-TV there are several variables at play including call types and volume as well as officer staffing. The department currently has 51 officer vacancies.

Why 911 response times are increasing and what is being done about it
Photo: KSL-TV

However, figures for new hires are going up. There are 46 additional officers in training, 41 of them are partnered with a veteran officer. All of them are expected to be taking calls by next summer, June 2022.

The department also points to the recent mayor-approved pay increase for officers across the board.

"It went into effect in July," said detective Michael Ruff, "Whether you're a brand new officer or a veteran officer which helps recruiting and retention. It is difficult to train new officers, you're talking an 18 month best case scenario to replace somebody who left today."

Regardless of response times, the Salt Lake City Police Department encourages people to keep calling 911 with emergencies.

The mayor's office also provided KSL with a statement saying they are committed to giving the police department the resources they need to retain great officers, including the recent pay increase.

Full statement provided by spokeswoman Lindsey Nikola:

"While we know that not all calls for service are crime-related, giving the Salt Lake City Police Department the resources they need to help our residents is a priority for the Mayor. One important component of call response time is the department's staffing levels and on June 25 the Mayor increased officer pay to top-of-market so that our City is better equipped to attract and retain great officers for our community. The Mayor is a leader who is committed to consistently prioritizing the safety of our City's residents, visitors and business owners."

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