Crisis calls to police increase

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 12/05/2014
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Palmerston North police are responding to more emergency calls than ever before, but are managing to keep their response times to within six minutes in the city.

According to data obtained under the Official Information Act, police response times in the Central District, particularly Palmerston North City and Manawatu, have remained at a similar rate over the past five years, despite an increase in emergency or priority one calls.

Police communications centres operations manager Inspector Mal Schwartfeger said priority one calls were assessed by the police communications centre and assigned a priority depending on the information provided by the caller.

In 2009, 2524 priority one events were recorded in Palmerston North city, with an average response time of five minutes, 45 seconds.

In 2013, calls leapt by more than 1000, to 3843, but response times had changed little, the average being five minutes, 56 seconds.

Performance standards for responding to emergency events in urban areas is between eight and nine minutes, and for rural areas, 12 to 14 minutes.

If a call is not coded as a priority one, there is no set performance criteria.

Palmerston North area commander Inspector Pat Handcock said the kind of events that were classified as priority one could be anything from domestic or family violence disputes, to burglaries to missing people - anything that was happening in real time and had any hint of urgency.

Police officers had to remember to "walk a mile in the caller's shoes", for whom, waiting for 20 minutes following an emergency call was a very long time. "We always want to be improving."

Time frames for rural callouts were given more leeway due to the "tyranny of distance", he said.

Rural, or "non urban" callouts in Manawatu numbered 1136 in 2009, with a response time of 11 minutes, 33 seconds.

Like urban callouts, the number of calls outside of town had also risen over the years, to 1540 in 2014, but the average police response time dropped to 10 minutes, 40 seconds.

Considering that some locations they were called to were "pretty remote", the average response time for calls outside of the city was a "pretty good effort", Handcock said.

"It shows greater volumes and reduced response times, and from where I'm sitting as an area commander, that's good news."

While it was concerning that there were more priority one calls coming in, some of that could be attributed to a change in the business rules in the communications centre, meaning some previously coded category two had been recoded, he said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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