When you call 911, you expect the police to be there immediately. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Average 911 response times vary widely based on many factors, including where you live and the severity of the crime.
Which major U.S. metro city has the best (and worst) average police response time? We dug in to uncover these shocking stats that may surprise you!
Calling 911 connects you to an operator that is trained to assess your emergency. They use national standards to assess the priority of your call and dispatch emergency services based on your specific needs.
The average response time for a 911 call is 10 minutes, per American Police Beat. The urgency of these calls varies based on the type of emergency.
Most police departments have a response schedule that ranks different types of emergencies from high to low. Top priority always goes to callers who are in need of assistance due to a life-threatening emergency.
It’s not just about how high a priority your call is. Additional factors can determine response time.
- Number of incoming calls at the time of your call
- Number of officers available to respond
- Number of officers needed to respond to your specific situation
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the national average police response time varies based on the type of crime. Here are some national police response time statistics1.
|Type Of Crime||Within 5 Minutes||Within 6-10 Minutes||11 Minutes-1 Hour||Within A Day||Longer Than 1 Day||Length Of Time Unknown||Not Ascertained|
|Crimes Of Violence*||28.3%||30.3%||33.5%||2.5%||0.4%||5.0%||0.0%|
|Motor Vehicle Theft||12.5%||22.2%||49.1%||11.5%||1.3%||3.3%||0.0%|
* Includes data on rape and sexual assault
Unfortunately, active shooter situations have become far too common. Because of this, police departments have made this an extremely high priority, and response times average 3 minutes around the country.
According to our research, Denver has the worst average police response time with just under 13 minutes and Chicago comes in at a lightning speed of 3.5 minutes (but the Chicago report is only for serious emergency calls, so this is not a fair comparison). If you remove Chicago as an outlier, you will find Los Angeles has the best average police response time at 5.7 minutes.
Note: There’s no fair way to truly compare average police response times by city or metro area. Why? There are simply too many city-specific factors that affect response times. Some police departments, for example, cover much larger geographical areas; while others experience more traffic. If you have more current data for one of these cities, please provide it in the comments below.
Here’s our report on average police response time for 10 major U.S. cities. These have been ordered from fastest to slowest response times, but keep in mind that the collection means, years, etc. vary widely.
1. Chicago (kind of…)
Chicago has a reputation for being a high crime city, however, they have been able to keep police response times for high priority calls down to 3.46 minutes3. We were unable to find their average response time across all 911 calls, so we hesitate to praise Chicago as the most responsive city overall.
1. Los Angeles
Los Angeles tops our list for most responsive city with a reported average police response time of 5.7 minutes3. This is significantly better than that reported by any other city we researched.
7 minutes is the average response time to priority calls in Seattle. However, according to the Seattle Times, they are missing that mark when responding to certain areas and certain report types, including domestic violence7.
3. Dallas (TIE)
Even though Dallas strives to keep response times under 8 minutes, they are averaging just over 8 minutes for the highest priority calls8.
3. Miami (TIE)
The Miami Dade Police Department has made it a priority to work toward a goal of an 8 minute response time. High priority calls are currently averaging just over 8 minutes9.
4. New York City
New York City has an average police response time of 9.1 minutes. Serious crime response was shown to be much quicker at 4.6 minutes, but for non-critical situations, the response time is 13.3 minutes3.
The City of Atlanta has improved police response times by diverting medical calls to a local hospital for dispatch. That being said, the average response time is still 9 minutes and 35 seconds6.
Houston’s average police response time for all major crimes has increased in the last 5 years. The most serious calls now average 10 minutes5.
Average police response times are improving in Denver. However, they are still higher than in most cities. Between 2013 and 2016 response times for priority calls went from just over 15 minutes to just under 13 minutes4.
Average Police Response Time In The U.S. Infographic
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Average police response time data is not recorded by a national organization so we collected data from each city’s local reports. There is no standard for how often this should be compiled or if it is even available to the public, so the years of collection vary. We pulled together as many of the major cities as possible based on publicly disclosed reports but the data years differ widely, based on when it was compiled in each city. For this reason, some major U.S. cities may not be included in our list.
Being informed about how to use emergency and non-emergency numbers is the first step in getting response times down in your community.
What’s My Non-Emergency Number?
The quickest way to find your police department’s non-emergency number (which essentially is your local police office’s phone number) is to plug your city name followed by the words “non-emergency number” into Google. Alternatively, search for your city’s name followed by “police.”
Often, 911 dispatchers are dealing with non-emergency situations that slow down their ability to react and dispatch police quickly when it is truly needed. Here are some reasons to use the non-emergency number instead of 911:
- Reporting an incident after the fact
- Noise disturbances
- Non-life threatening emergencies
The truth of the matter is that you need to be responsible for your own safety as much as possible. Taking steps to protect yourself and your loved ones with home security and personal security can make a significant difference.
A home security system can protect you from emergency situations by deterring burglars and keeping your home from looking like an easy target. Be sure to read our best DIY home security system reviews to see affordable ways you can protect your home.
You also should consider additional security precautions. If you’re out alone at night or in a potentially dangerous situation, it helps to have personal protection on hand. Learn more with our stun gun and taser flashlight reviews.
A medical alert system can also help if your health is compromised or if you have an elderly family member. The best medical alert systems give you direct access to someone who can assess your needs and convey the priority of your emergency to police or EMT services quickly and efficiently.
Were you surprised by any of these police response time statistics?