NOPD response times have been in the news plenty of late, most recently with the armed holdup of more than a dozen diners at Patois restaurant in Uptown, an incident to which police took nearly a half-hour to respond. Other stories have chronicled even longer response times to less-urgent but still serious crimes; for instance, a Bywater comedy club made news a few weeks ago following a slow response to a business burglary. According to the report, the club was broken into three times in early August, with NOPD responding over 10 hours after the first incident and 8 hours hours after the second. Both break-ins were marked as “unfounded” by the police because the club owner wasn’t present when the officers arrived.
Business burglaries highlight the difficulties NOPD faces due to its shrinking manpower. These incidents are rarely emergencies and are hence given a far lower priority for response than emergencies such as shootings and robberies.
Reviewing Calls for Service for all business burglaries since 2011 shows that NOPD has responded to these incidents much more slowly in 2015 than it did in 2011. I calculated business burglary totals by using Calls for Service data for business burglary (62B) incidents that received an NOPD dispatch.
In this database, response times are calculated as the difference between a call’s time of creation and the time of dispatch. The response time does not include the time it takes the officer to arrive on the scene, but it is the closest possible representation with the available data. Business burglary response times by year are provided in the below table.
Business Burglary Response Times by Year, 2011 – 2015 (*estimated pace as of mid-August). Source: NOPD.
As can be seen, both the number of business burglaries and the average response time have increased over the last few years. The degree of increasing response times is best shown in the chart below.
Response times of more than 10 hours — such as the comedy club experienced — are rare, although they have become more common since the beginning of 2014. There were no business burglaries between 2011 and 2013 with a response time over 10 hours. There were 11 business burglaries with a response time over 10 hours in 2014 (1.8 percent of that year’s total), and there have been 34 business burglaries with a response time over 10 hours in 2015 (7.5 percent of 2015’s total).
The other interesting angle to the comedy club burglary is the impact longer response times have had on business burglary investigations. Over 96 percent of all business burglary incidents have received a disposition of ‘Report to Follow’ (RTF) or ‘Unfounded’ (UNF) since the beginning of 2011. The breakdown of business burglaries by disposition since 2011 is provided in the below table. Notably, the percentage of cases classified as “Unfounded” has more than doubled since 2011. Incidents deemed unfounded are not counted as crimes in the city’s Uniform Crime Reports, and perhaps more importantly, they generally receive no follow-up investigation from the NOPD.
This effect is shown in the chart below, which separates average response time for RTF and UNF for each year since 2011.
With NOPD’s troop strength at historic lows, non-emergency response times are a citywide issue. The NOPD’s 5th District Commander noted in response to the comedy club break-in that more resources will hep bring down response times. It is important, however, that longer response times do not become a mechanism for declaring more non-emergency incidents as unfounded — and thus not investigating them further or counting them as crimes.