“It took 13 MINUTES for the MPD dispatcher to get an officer to the scene”

911 wait
Photo by PoPville flickr user Claire Uziel

“Dear PoPville,

I was walking home from the Dupont Circle metro just after midnight on Saturday, August 6, towards my apartment in Logan Circle. As I turned onto Massachusetts Ave, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless walking from behind a MPD vehicle at the police sub-station on 1369 Connecticut Ave, NW (DuPont Circle). I heard a hissing sound but didn’t see any sprinklers at the adjacent building. I immediately realized that the man had punctured the tires of at least one of the MPD vehicles and continued to walk away from the police sub-station. I trailed him as he continued to walk through Dupont while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. It took 13 MINUTES for the MPD dispatcher to get an officer to the scene in one of DC’s busiest neighborhoods. I literally trailed the suspect for 13 minutes and nearly a quarter mile.”

What do you think guys think a reasonable response time should be for an incident like this?

24 Comment

  • I’m picturing a Benny Hill scene where the cops get to their car, realize the tires are flat, then they run in circles around the car. Sorry.

  • Ashy Oldlady

    Unfortunately this is the new reality when it comes to emergency response time in the nation’s capital. We all need to adjust our expectations accordingly.

    • Except that this wasn’t an emergency by most standards. No lives were at risk. I’d call it an annoying inconvenience.

  • I mean, one might assume that they were busy with more heinous crimes.

  • I’m know it was frustrating, but thanks for doing this. Last year I trailed for 20 mins in the middle of the day a guy who I saw assault a woman in Shaw before the cops finally arrived. Turns out he had assaulted a number of other people in the previous week, so it was good he finally was arrested. You did the right thing, and it was only 15 mins of your life. I wish more people would step up like that.

  • As a clarification, the dispatching center is not MPD. They are a separate agency. Not trying to be nitpicky – it’s good to know how things work. Police often get blamed for being slow to respond when in fact the dispatcher is slow to, well, dispatch.

    • ETA, so there are really two response times to consider. Time for the dispatcher to send the officer, and the time it takes the officer to respond after he/she has been dispatched.

    • Well, two separate agencies could be a factor in slow response times. But practically speaking the bureaucratic mechanics of how dispatching works matters not one bit when the police don’t show up quickly enough.

      • It does if you want to fix the problem. Otherwise, each agency can blame the other and it’s never solved.

      • The mechanics are actually the only thing that matter in this case. How else will the problem be fixed?

        When OUC takes the call, it goes into a queue for 2D, that particular district. It’s given a priority (1-3) and then it’s dispatched in that order. This probably came over as a Destruction of Property report, which is a 3, so it was behind the other reports in the queue. 2D has tons of reports. From car break-ins to car crashes, it’s a lot of paper.

  • 13 minutes for nonviolent vandalism that isn’t endangering anyone’s safety? That doesn’t really bother me very much. Without knowing what else was happening at the time I don’t know if 13 minutes is unreasonable.

  • Seems pretty responsive for a petty vandalism call. I’m amazed that this person felt the need to actually tail the suspect, though. Don’t dispatchers typically tell people NOT to follow suspects for their own safety? It’s easy to imagine how this could have ended very badly. Really not worth it.

  • Seems ridiculous if this was indeed from outside a substation. I’d say no more than 5 min for something that close. If they can’t respond faster than 13 min to something around the corner or within a few blocks of a substation, that’s troublesome.

    • Not really. The substation is for the Gay & Lesbian liaison unit, and they’re probably not staffed 24/7. Plus they don’t dispatch regular patrol officers for vandalism calls from there.

  • 13 minutes doesn’t sound that bad to me for petty vandalism, especially on the midnight shift on the weekend when the call volume is likely high and there are probably a lot of priority calls. The only 911 calls I’ve made for violence have been after 10 pm and I’ve seen police respond rapidly. For example when I witnessed an assault/mugging in Columbia Heights an ambulance, 4 police cars and 3 bicycle officers showed up within 5 minutes of my stopping my bike, yelling at the aggressors to stop beating the guy, finding my phone in my backpack and calling 911. When I called in gunshots Monday night after 11:30 the response time was about 3 mins.

  • This may come off a bit like victim-blaming (granted OP is just a bystander), but I’m confused as to why the OP wouldn’t snap a pic of the perp (clearly it wasn’t a concern to be on the phone and trailing the guy) and simply go inside the substation and tell someone what just happened right outside.

    • The chances of finding the perp based on a cell phone picture and then having enough evidence to charge based on OP’s after the fact testimony are slim versus immediately detaining and searching him and hopefully finding the puncture tool on his person. But I am curious whether the dispatcher advised the OP to disengage? Good on the OP for acting but he/she put herself in a potentially dangerous situation that I would not expect a dispatcher to encourage.

  • I called in a group of teens stealing a bike last week right across from MLK Library and the cops where there in 2 minutes, so it doesn’t always take this long for a response.

    In general, I agree with others that this seems like a reasonable response time for petty vandalism.

  • 13 minutes seems perfectly acceptable to arrive on the scene of what is likely to be a couple hundred dollars worth of property damage. The idea that MPD would go lights blazing in hot pursuit of a vandalism suspect stretches credulity in a city that now has over 17,000 property crimes reported so far this year. It’s just not a realistic expectation.

Comments are closed.