Bridge Magazine's Mike Wilkinson takes a deep dive into the murky world of Detroit police response times and concludes it is impossible to accurately measure how much they have improved because the department has twice changed the definition of what calls are considered high-priority since 2013.
Getting police to scenes in the timely manner most Americans expect is perhaps the most important issue today in a city still afflicted with a high crime rate.
When state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr first pleaded with a federal bankruptcy court to help Detroit in July 2013, he made his case with sobering statistics, Wilkinson reports: The city’s high levels of poverty, blight and abandonment, its declining population and tax revenues, and its insane crime rate.
Most memorably, Orr pointed out how long it took police, on average, to get to the highest-priority crimes: Fifty-eight minutes, or nearly an hour. It was partial proof the city couldn’t “meet obligations to its citizens,” Orr told the court.
It was a shocking number – and one repeated by Gov. Rick Snyder, the man who appointed Orr. And in December 2013 U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes used that revelation as one of many reasons he would allow the city to seek bankruptcy’s cost-cutting protection.
Now, nearly a year after Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy, Detroit Police Chief James Craig says response times have fallen below 15 minutes; and Mayor Mike Duggan, who loves data and scorecards, regularly touts the precipitous reduction with similar numbers.
“You remember those days? Alright,” Duggan told a citizens’ group last week at a Midtown church, referring to the long waits for police.
“You didn’t know if they were coming. (Chief Craig’s) now down to 16 minutes.”
But internal police records reviewed by Bridge contradict Orr’s 2013 claim that Detroit Police ever took 58 minutes to answer the most urgent calls. And the department now concedes that while response times have certainly improved, there is no way to accurately measure how much they have improved because the department has twice changed the definition of what calls are considered high-priority since 2013.