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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in at least a year, Salt Lake City's police chief says response times for Priority 1 calls are under 10 minutes.
Chief Mike Brown announced Monday that in November, the average time it took for a person making a call for police service to when an officer showed up at their doorstep was 9 minutes and 55 seconds. That's down just over 3 minutes from November 2021.
"In the game of responding to calls for service and especially 911 calls when lives are on the line and people want us there now, seconds matter," Brown said.
The reduction in response time isn't due to fewer calls. In fact, overall calls for police service in Salt Lake City are up for the third consecutive year, the chief said, including a 7% increase for calls this year.
And he says improving response times isn't solved by officers simply putting their feet to their gas pedals.
"Some people think it's just as fast as you can drive," he said.
"Response times" also include the time it takes for emergency dispatchers to receive vital information from callers and then relay that to officers, who then drive to a scene. That's why staffing becomes an important issue when it comes to having enough officers available to handle calls at any moment.
For the past four months, Salt Lake City has required officers to work seven overtime shifts. Each shift for a police officer is 10 hours. That puts an extra 18 officers patrolling Salt Lake City's streets each day, Brown said. But he recognizes that that's not a sustainable plan.
The department hopes to use other strategies to free up officers such as the introduction of a police civilian response team in the coming months which will put 12 civilians on the street to help with low-level calls, he said.
The Salt Lake City Police Department is currently down 46 officers. That's an improvement from their high of 91 officer vacancies in June 2021. Once the department gets back to its normal staffing, Brown said the next step will be looking to expand the Salt Lake City Police Department.
"You look around the city, everywhere you look, there's new buildings going up. The city is growing. This police department needs to grow with them, and we need to look down the road as to where we need to be in six months, a year, two years, as far as the size of this department, so we can serve the community the way it deserves to be served," Brown said.
"Priority 1" calls typically include active crimes such as shootings, assaults, robberies or a person with a weapon. "Priority 2" calls include burglaries, a 911 hangup, or an assault or shots-fired incident that just occurred but is not actively happening