Officer response times consistent

Deputies in Richmond County are dispatched to more than 200,000 calls every year.

Phil Wasson's job, as director of the 911 Call Center, is to make sure someone is on the scene as soon as possible.

Numbers since 2008 have proved relatively consistent. In 60 percent of the cases, an officer was on the scene within 5 minutes. In 90 percent of cases officers were there in 12 minutes.

Wasson said in a county where some beats span eight miles, the numbers are impressive.

"Sometimes I wonder how they make it in 12 minutes," he said.

Richmond County, which covers 328 square miles, is divided into 35 beats with one officer assigned to each, according to Richmond County sheriff's Col. Gary Powell.

"We're happy with our time," Powell said. "If we can stay in that range we'll be good."

At least 35 uniformed officers are on the streets at all times. The number does not include traffic cars, supervisors and investigators, Powell said.

Columbia County has at least 25 officers covering its 290 square miles every day. The number does not include traffic, special operations, crime suppression, bike patrol or canine units.

Capt. Steve Morris said the county has also seen consistent response times.

Since 2008, Columbia County officers responded to all calls in about 9 minutes. For priority calls, the response time, on average, is about 7 minutes.

Dispatchers receive more than 35,000 calls every year.

Morris said the department is happy with the results and constantly working toward keeping its time low.

"Seconds can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency or whether or not a criminal will be apprehended," he said.

If a certain area begins to experience an uptick in activity, more deputies will be added to that beat, according to Morris. The county is divided into 10 beats.

The county doesn't wait to hear complaints from residents. All calls are closely monitored by supervisors, who track the deputy's response time.

"If it appears that a deputy is taking too long to respond to a call, the deputy will be questioned and the incident will be investigated," Morris said.

Richmond County has a similar policy.

If the response time is 15 minutes or more, Powell said, the officer is required to fill out a form explaining the delay.

"If (the officer) was in a car riding in the Highway 56 area and got a call way on the other side of the county, then we understand that," he said.

"If not, we find out and talk to him about the importance of getting to calls when they're dispatched."

In many of the reported incidents, Powell said, he has found the officers trying to complete filling out a report before moving on to the next call.

"Before you know it, it's been 10 minutes and then they get hung up in traffic and it takes longer than it should to get there," he said.

Richmond County does receive complaints, but that's all part of responding to emergencies.

"If you're a victim of a crime or involved in a serious accident and you call the police, one minute is going to seem like half an hour," Powell said.

Complaints are considered and 99 percent of the time a complaint is eliminated after reviewing the response time.

In the 34 years he has been with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, Powell said he never recalls a major issue with deputy response.

Richmond County by the Numbers

35: Total police beats

1: Number of officers per beat

328: Square miles in county

Calls dispatched

153,052: Total calls to date in 2010

229,387: Total calls in 2009

241,411: Total calls in 2008

Response time

In 2010, 89.6 percent of all calls answered in 12 minutes; 59.6 answered in 5 minutes.

In 2009, 89.5 percent of all calls answered in 12 minutes; 60.2 answered in 5 minutes.

In 2008, 89.8 percent of all calls answered in 12 minutes; 60.5 percent answered in 5 minutes.

Source: Phil Wasson, director of Richmond County 9-1-1 Call Center

Columbia County by the Numbers

10: Total police beats

2.5: Number of officers per beat

290: Square miles in county

Calls dispatched

28,883: Total calls to date in 2010

41,662: Total calls in 2009

39,882: Total calls in 2008

Average response time

For 2010, 8.44 minutes for all calls; 6.5 minutes for priority calls

For 2009, 8.63 minutes for all calls; 6.55 minutes for priority calls

For 2008, 8.65 minutes for all calls; 6.78 minutes for priority calls

Source: Columbia County Sheriff's Department