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

Sep 23, 2021, 7:46 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2021, 9:35 pm




SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — 9-1-1 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 9-1-1 call response times, obtained by KSL 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.

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.

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.”

Regardles of response times, SLCPD encourages people to keep calling 9-1-1 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 spokesperson 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.”

Editor’s note: Our original report included a claim from business owner David Ibarra that he had made five calls to 911 that went unanswered by Salt Lake City Police. KSL-TV has since provided the names of the people who Ibarra said made those calls as well as the nature of the calls to Salt Lake City Police. SLCPD said its prelimary review was unable to corroborate Ibarra’s claims and called them “unfounded.” Mr. Ibarra stands by his statement.

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