Rising violence, staff shortages causing slower 911 response times in Philly: Officials

"The shortage is significant. Our office is down over 600 police officers from our staffing levels in 2015," said Outlaw.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A shortage among police officers and dispatchers continues to contribute to long response times across Philadelphia.

"If you call the police and no one answers the phone when you need help, how are you supposed to get help?" asked Paula Squillacioti-Orme, owner of William Didden Flower Shop at 64th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia.

She says it was back in November when a serious vehicle accident happened outside her shop. The impact of the crash sent one person into the roadway.

Squillacioti-Orme says she quickly called 911.

"I called in the midst of all the confusion. I called four times. My friend called three times and they never answered," she recalled.

Crews arrived about 30 minutes later to render aid.

"Thank God I wasn't robbed. Thank God I wasn't shot. But the guy that was lying on the street over there, I felt bad for him," said Squillacioti-Orme.

The head of the 911 dispatchers union says a shortage of police officers and dispatchers has resulted in them prioritizing calls, sometimes leaving operators with as many as 30 calls on hold.

"So if you have 30 calls pending or on hold, a police officer has to go through a priority zero or priority one, and the calls that are minor, priority 6, get pushed aside," said Darnell Davis of Local 1637.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw acknowledged the staffing shortage is contributing to the slower response times.

"The shortage is significant. Our office is down over 600 police officers from our staffing levels in 2015," said Outlaw.

But she and union leaders say the vast increase in violent crime has also been a major factor in slower response times.

"Right now, you're dialing 911, you might get a cop two - three - four hours down the line. They're not there. Alright, folks? They're not there. We don't have the manpower," said FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby.

Commissioner Outlaw says they have hired 50 new dispatchers since December with more on the way.

"With the police radio staffing numbers being filled, we are hopeful that we will be closing the gap on our radio staff deficit in the near future," said Outlaw.

Many residents are hoping that help comes soon.

The police department says they will also be kicking off another police officer recruitment drive or application period beginning in March.

Anyone interested in applying is being asked to visit the website https://www.joinphillypd.com or call 215-683-COPS.
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