To free up more officers to deal with the most serious crimes, 911 dispatchers will no longer send officers to attend calls deemed less pressing.
Chicago police are no longer responding in person to 911 calls reporting vehicle theft, garage burglary or simple assault in a change aimed at freeing up officers to deal with more serious crimes.
According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the change came into effect on Sunday and also covers crime where the victim is “safe, secure and not in need of medical attention” and the offender is “not on the scene and not expected to return immediately.”
Chicago authorities are hoping the change frees up more officers to attend to the most serious crimes, such as serious assaults and murders.
Instead of sending officers, 911 dispatchers have been told to transfer the calls to the Chicago Police Department’s Alternate Response Section, which is staffed by officers on light duty.
In 2012, the Alternate Response Section dealt with 74,000 reports. Victims of crime had the choice of filing a report over the phone or requesting that an officer attend in person when one was available. That number of reports is expected to double, but the choice of asking for an officer to attend will no longer be available.
The change is expected to free up the equivalent of 44 officers a day.
Dispatchers have reportedly been told to transfer calls if “the offender is gone, not expected to ‘return immediately’ and an officer is not needed for a prompt investigation; an officer on the scene would ‘not result in an immediate arrest’; and the victim is safe, secure and not in need of medical attention.”
The Sun-Times goes on to quote Chicago Deputy Chief-of-Patrol Steve Georgas, who said police forces throughout the United States are looking for ways to become more efficient.
“This is just a little piece that we think is going to help us in keeping cops up and free for patrol work. I don’t think we’re looking for huge gains. It’s probably only going to equate to 40 to 45 officers a watch,” he said.
Georgas added that he did not think the change will be difficult for residents to get used to.
“It’s a traumatic thing being the victim of a crime. This will be a little more convenient for them as well,” he said. “They’re still getting police service from a sworn police officer. But it’s over the phone, and it’s only in certain situations. Those officers are trained in what to ask. If certain things come up, they’ll be able to transfer that back over to dispatch, and we’ll immediately send an officer out.”
However, some Chicago aldermen suggested the changes will prove difficult to accept for crime victims.
“I can understand if it’s [to report] somebody spray-painted my trash can. But people want to see an officer when it gets up to a certain level of crime. They’re setting the bar pretty high for police not to respond,” said Alderman Scott Waguespack.
“When you’re talking about someone’s garage being broken into and you’ve had three or four neighbors with the same thing, people have an expectation of having an officer on location to assess the situation,” he said. “If no officer shows up, they’re going to assume it’s going to keep happening. They’ll feel this is scaling back even more. There’ll be a lot of people angry.”