“When seconds count, the police may be HOURS away”

Yes, I know, that quotation is supposed to read “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away”:  but not, apparently, if you live in certain places.  Via a link at Earthbound Misfit’s place, we learn:

Late last year, a man was assaulted by two people after walking out of the Family Dollar on Patterson road in Dayton. His attackers left pretty quickly, and the staff at family dollar called 911.

“We kept calling them and calling them, hoping they would come faster,” says Jennifer, the store manager. “He could have had a concussion. He could have passed out. He was bleeding too.” … All told, it took police an hour and a half to respond.

. . .

Captain Matt Haines from the regional dispatch center says one minute after receiving the first 911 call from the Family Dollar, they broadcast it out to Dayton Police, but there were no crews available to respond. The center dispatches to 16 police departments across Montgomery County.

“In certain jurisdictions,” Haines says, “there are times that…the number of calls for service are more than the number of available crews to respond to those incidents.”

And Dayton is frequently the system that’s the most overwhelmed, he says. “Dayton is the busiest area that we dispatch for.”

. . .

Dayton Police Chief Biehl says that Dayton police are not slow to respond, their records back him up.

For priority one calls, things like stabbings, shootings, and robberies in progress, their average response time is less than five minutes. The incident at the Family Dollar was classified as a priority four, because the assailant had already left and there was no longer an immediate threat. Their average response time for a priority four call is around 26 minutes. By their response records, it does appear that this was an exceptionally long wait time.

There’s more at the link.

There are extenuating circumstances in the case cited;  but how many of us are aware that police across the nation will routinely assign a priority to our emergency based on how they see it, not how we see it?  What if the nature of our emergency is misunderstood by the call center operator, who then assigns it a lower priority than it should have received?  What if we tell the 911 dispatcher that the bad guys have left, so the police respond more slowly . . . but the bad guys come back, or their friends come looking for evens, while we’re still waiting for the cops?  Think that won’t happen?  I know of several cases where it has – and by that, I mean I know one or more of the principals involved.  Their stories are not pleasant or easy listening.

I’ve said this many times before, and I daresay I’ll go on saying it until the day I die.  Ultimately, your safety and security are in your hands and no-one else’s.  Be ready to protect them any way you have to, and don’t assume that the police will be there when you need them.  The odds are overwhelmingly great that they won’t.  They’ll arrive in time to clean up the mess and do the paperwork . . . but that may be altogether too late for you.  Plan and prepare accordingly.



  1. This also does not mention the Supreme Court opinion that police do not have a duty or responsibility to protect individuals. The police duty is to protect society as a whole, then take a report when an individual is hurt.
    That being said, I spent the past twenty years a police communications officer, dispatching police, fire and EMS. My officers would try hard to watch over individuals when we knew there was an imminent threat to that person. The qualification was manpower: on a normal day we ran three eight hour shifts of two patrol officers per shift for a town of 10,000. We did what we could with what we had and we did not assign priority numbers

  2. I live in a rural Colorado county. I had occasion last Friday night to talk by telephone with a deputy sheriff (not an emergency), in the course of which he informed me that he was the only patrol deputy on duty — for 740 square miles.
    I always assume that reponse time is going to be at least thirty minutes (outside the country seat) under good conditions.

  3. In the small Kansas community of 163 souls I lived in for 15 years the response time was two hours for the sheriff's office on a good day. Next day wasn't unusual. And if you lived out on one of the ranches…

    EMS and fire crews were strictly volunteer and based on who dispatch could get a hold of as to how long it took to get help.

  4. In my rural area if I needed a cop on most nights they'd have to call the sheriff and get him or a deputy out of bed. He'd have to get up and dressed and depending on the officer he'd have a 20 to 45 minute drive to my place. Total response time is about 45 minutes to an hour+. There's also the issue of competence once they arrived but that's another story. The wildcard is a trooper. At night he may or may not be on and if he is, he is in one of 8 counties. Response time could be 5 minutes or could be 5 hours. Generally competent though.

    Do I mind about the response times? Nope not a bit. I'd rather have lower taxes.

  5. I believe that the key data point to take away from the quoted story is that their average response time for priority one calls is less than five minutes. I assume that means just under five minutes or they would have said it differently.
    In just under five minutes a criminal can kill you, kill your family, and be miles away.
    My home has a smoke detector, alarm system, and fire extinguisher.
    My vehicles all have jacks and spare tires.
    And wherever possible I have ready access to a firearm to protect myself and my family.
    Anything else is just foolish.

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