Special Reports

SPECIAL REPORT: Emergency response times in EP are twice national average

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EL PASO, Texas - In an emergency, the public is trained to call 911. But what happens when you call and no one shows up?

Several months ago, ABC-7 spoke with Steven Cottingham, an El Paso resident who said a police officer never showed up when he called to report an assault.

ABC-7's I-Team learned El Paso police response times are twice the national average.

For example, priority 1 calls include homicide, rape, robbery, assault, larceny, theft and motor theft.

About 67 percent of the time, the police department's response time for priority 1, 2 and 3 calls is within 21 minutes.  According to the the American Police Beat, a law enforcement publication, the national average response time for a priority 1 call is 10 minutes.

Police officials said their slow response times are because of a lack of officers and equipment, which has led to problems when more crimes are reported than there are units available on any given day.

"I don't want to scare the public," Sgt. Ron Martin said. "But there are times in this city you will only have four patrol officers working an entire region."

The department has 1,026 officers, which Martin said is almost a 20-year low.

According to reports, the police department has 272 marked units, but 68 percent of the fleet has more than 100,000 miles. Of the 272 marked units, 30 to 50 cars have been wrecked or totaled and are de-commissioned.

Martin, the president of the El Paso Municipal Police Officers' Association, said officers are being pulled from the field to hand off the same cruiser from one shift to the next.

Because of the compounding problems, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen has asked the city to increase the department's annual budget.

City Manger Tommy Gonzalez said the city has devised a 10-year plan to assist in the lack of officers and equipment. Gonzalez told ABC-7 the city plans to enroll 80 new cadets into the academy each year, although that will barely keep up with the number of officers who leave every year, usually in between 50 to 55 officers.
The city is also buying 20 more patrol cars this year and will continue to add 10 every year after.

Officials said the fixes will not improve the situation overnight.  The police department has asked the city for almost a 9 percent increase for its annual budget that in 2016, which would be more than 10 million dollars.

City Council is set to vote on the budget proposal on Aug. 23.

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