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Police responding to top-priority 911 calls 13 percent faster

Chicago Police Department 11th District 3151 W. Harrison. Monday, Decemer 5, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times

Officers have been responding to 911 calls more quickly this year, according to new figures released Thursday by the Chicago Police Department.

Department officials hail the faster response times as proof their strategy to put more cops in patrol cars is working. But the Fraternal Order of Police counters that a rise in murders and shootings shows the patrol officers aren’t doing enough to prevent violent crime.

The average response for a “priority-one” call was 4 minutes in January and February 2011 compared to 3.46 minutes for the same period this year – about 13 percent faster.

Officers are responding more quickly to lower priority calls, too. The average response for a priority-two call fell from 4.94 minutes to 4.21 minutes and 5.63 minutes to 5.4 for a priority-three call, the department said.

A “burglary in progress” is one example of a priority-one call. A report of a burglar alarm going off would be a priority-two call and a burglary that already occurred would be a priority-three call.

Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said officers are responding faster to 911 calls because Supt. Garry McCarthy has moved nearly 1,000 officers to street patrols from citywide crime-fighting units and desk jobs. The shift was one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign pledges.

The department has about 12,000 sworn officers.

Although officers’ response times have gotten faster, 911 calls have shot up this year – along with murders and non-fatal shootings, records show.

Over the first two months of 2011, the city’s 911 center dispatched nearly 630,000 calls compared to about 700,000 over the same period this year, Stratton said.

There were 59 murders in 2011 through March 7 compared to 75 over the same period this year.

Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the statistics support his frequent criticism of the department’s strategy of putting more cops in patrol cars.

“There is very little, if any, proactive police work because Chicago Police officers are too busy racing from one 911 call to another,” Shields said.

Stratton responded: “Overall crime is down 11 percent and we are down in every category, with the exception of murder and shootings. We are actively working to address the number of shootings that occur citywide, and as those numbers flatten out, we believe the murder rate will follow.”