What are the response times for law enforcement?

Law enforcement response times must be quick in order for crimes to be averted and public safety maintained.  While responding quickly to a 911 emergency is imperative in both medical and law enforcement emergencies and officers generally make every effort to do so quickly and efficiently, sometimes a variety of things can keep that from happening.


First of all, it’s important to define law enforcement response time.  It’s the amount of time it takes an officer to reach the scene after they’ve received the dispatch call from the 911 operator. Because a timely 911 response is critical to maintaining public safety and it’s one of the main things that citizens look for in their law enforcement force, any city or community must ensure that that they’re able to respond quickly to emergencies.

Some public officials think that too much emphasis is spent on law enforcement response time and that many 911 calls aren’t actually emergencies.  They think that law enforcement efforts might be better spent on crime prevention than running to the scene of calls that aren’t really emergencies. An example of this would be if someone comes home from work and finds that their house has been broken into and their TV stolen. If it’s obvious that the intruder is long gone from the scene, is it really an emergency? Does a law enforcement response of ten minutes instead of five really make a difference?

On the other hand, law enforcement response time is critical in life threatening situations or in those where the chances of preventing a crime and/or catching a criminal are good if they arrive on the scene quickly.  An example would be a bank robbery, an assault, or an ongoing home invasion.

Studies show that in many cases, the law enforcement response time is quicker than the four to six minutes it takes the average person to place a 911 call after a so-called emergency takes place.

While there is little debate that in the case of a medical emergency, particularly a heart attack, a better emergency response time is critical, studies show the difference of a few minutes time in a law enforcement emergency seldom makes a huge amount of difference.

Law enforcement response times are fairly standard across the U.S. with the average being five minutes.  Some cities have better response rates than others, and it should be taken into account the number of officers when comparing response rates.  With city and state budgets shrinking, law enforcement departments are often forced to lay off workers.  That means that services are stretched and response times dwindle.  Calls are prioritized according to importance, for instance any crime involving a weapon would warrant a more rapid response than one where no weapon is involved.


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