If your car is stalled in the middle of the Carmack parking lot and no one is around, how long would it take the Ohio State University Police Department help?
The answer: 15 minutes and 1 second. At least, that’s how long it took for one response on Nov. 5 at 8:31 in the morning in the Carmack 3 lot.
However, if it’s something more pressing like a fire alarm, police will be on scene in an average time of just 3 minutes and 53 seconds.
In a dataset of University Police responses from Aug. 6, 2018, to Dec. 20, 2018, obtained by The Lantern, 17,671 dispatch entries of all police calls were analyzed, finding that University Police took an average of 3 minutes and 34 seconds to arrive on scene after being dispatched.
Ohio State police Capt. David Rose explained that when police are examining average response time once en route, they have to comb through the data to eliminate outliers caused by human error and discount officer-initiated responses.
For example, there was one dispatched unit for “officer out on a follow up” that was listed as having required an eight hour and 20 minute response time — likely due to human error in forgetting to close out the call — that would skew the dataset. There also were 7,219 records listed as being “officer initiated” out of the 17,671 records that had an average response time of 13 seconds.
Officer initiated is when an officer initiates the call when on scene and is typically associated with location checks — ensuring a random location is free of any issues — and traffic stops.
Rose said 3 1/2 minutes is about what the police have found when analyzing the data themselves.
“That’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen as well,” Rose said, who noted the police aim for around 4 minutes. “Four minutes or less would be ideal.”
Police often gauge their success in responding to calls by how they handle higher priority calls. Certain situations are precoded based on its Ten Codes — a code that identifies the type of call police are responding to. The priorities range from 0 being the highest and 5 being the lowest, Satoru Persons, director of communications for the Department of Public Safety, said.
Though the priorities might often be high, Rose said generally the Ten Code will be for something that might not be too urgent despite a general precoding that indicates otherwise.
“Sometimes you’d have a Ten Code that is something that at face value would seem really urgent, but the reality is, it’s based on an incident that occurred yesterday,” Rose said.
Based on the response logs and eliminating outliers, police had an average response time of 3 minutes and 47 seconds for priority 0 calls on a total of 33 calls. Priority 1 calls had a 3 minute and 13 second response time while priority 2 calls took 3 minutes and 20 seconds for police to arrive on scene. There were 1,691 priority 1 calls and 1,794 priority 2 calls.
Priority 0 calls were listed as being codes of rape, fondling, dating violence, fire inspection, burglary and domestic violence. Priority 1 calls included burglary in-progress, shooting, fire, cutting or stabbing, suicide attempt, wanted person, person with a gun or knife, and bomb threats among other calls. Priority 2 calls consisted of stolen vehicles, suspicious activity, missing person, drug complaints, shots fired, robbery, theft in progress and others.
Lower priority calls in the 3 to 5 range generally consist of location checks, traffic stops, auto accident with no injuries, animal complaints, property destruction, building or vehicle lockouts, parking violations, noise complaints and more.
Depending on how large the situation is, Persons said Columbus Police might even be brought in.
“I think back to the Nov. 28 incident that we had back in 2016,” Persons said. “Columbus Police responded to our situation simply because the radio traffic that they were hearing on their side, and the 911 calls that were being received at all locations.”
Transferring the call
Even if a situation is not large enough to require Columbus Police, they often receive plenty of calls from Ohio State students, even if it is not in their jurisdiction.
University spokesman Dan Hedman said that if someone is standing in the middle of the Oval and calls 911 from his or her cellphone, the call automatically goes to Columbus Police. If a call is made from an Ohio State landline phone, however, it will go directly to University Police.
“There’s a lot of times where crimes being reported start at Columbus Police and get transferred to our dispatchers,” Hedman said, though adding that sometimes calls go the other way. “We get calls that we send to [Columbus Police] or send to [Columbus Fire].”
The transfer process is determined by jurisdiction, Persons said. All Ohio State campus addresses listed are designated as University Police jurisdiction, while others farther off campus are directed to Columbus Police.
Persons said the transfer is nearly instantaneous, and that there is almost no time lost when moving the call from one to the other.
“The first question that our dispatchers ask on a 911 call is, ‘911, where’s your emergency?’ or, ‘What is the address for your emergency?’” Persons said.
Inputting the data
University spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email that Ohio State does not have records of individual call data prior to Aug. 6 because the police transitioned to a new system at that date.
“While older data was imported into this new system, it isn’t considered an apples-to-apples comparison to what can be obtained from the system now,” Johnson said.
Rose said a change in the system was absolutely necessary, for the old system was purchased by a new company called Zuercher, which has since been merged with CentralSquare Technologies. Rose said police are in a “better place” for looking at response time and that “we really had to make a switch.”
“We’re able to go back and use the dispatcher’s impressions based on when they were called,” Rose said, “and that’s kind of the more modern way that we’re doing it now.”
In the data, there were often calls listed that were blank in certain fields like “First Enroute” and “Address.” There are also cases where police are listed as having had a response time of zero seconds even when it might not be officer initiated. Rose said often a call will begin to triage a call and decide after learning more information from the caller that an officer might not have to be dispatched.
“There’s a wide variety of reasons why there could be a blank,” Rose said, noting that human error in inputting the dispatch calls manually into the system could lead to some blanks as well as some of the large outliers where a time might be listed as several hours.
There are many calls that are not inputted into the dataset, however, because a solution might be found over the phone, Rose said.
The dataset is “only the number of calls where they’ve taken the call and decided to implement a computerated dispatch call, which means they’re actually going to dispatch someone to investigate for one reason or another,” Rose said.