FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Far north Fort Worth has drawn thousands of new homeowners to plant roots there.
“It’s a nice location, new housing development, more energy efficient, so I really like it,” said Kris Trowbridge, who recently bought a home in that area.
But while the areas growth has been rapid, emergency response times haven’t kept up with the pace.
In a budget work session, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead showed city council members a map that detailed response times across the city. In downtown Fort Worth it takes officers five minutes and six seconds to five minutes and 47 seconds to respond to a call. Compare that to far north Fort Worth, where it can take officers anywhere from seven minutes, 55 seconds to ten minutes and 37 seconds to respond to a priority one call.
“As your chief, I am not comfortable with our residents waiting this long for our response,” Halstead said.
Police blame fewer officers, along with the city’s rapid growth and constant construction for slower response times. It’s also a major concern for the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, especially now that violent crime including assaults and homicides are up 3.5% from last year.
“It takes us longer to get to calls that come in and we have less time to spend with individual citizens on the calls,” said Sgt. Stephen Hall, President of the FWPOA. “They’ll go to calls by themselves sometimes when there should be 2 or 3 or even more officers depending on the nature of the call and that creates a huge officer safety issue.”
But while violent crime is up this year, crime overall is down 7.2 percent. Property crime is down 11.8 percent according to police statistics.
To combat slower response times, officers in the Far North Fort Worth division are restricted from being dispatched too far away.
Fort Worth Police have also discussed creating a 6th patrol division in the far North Fort Worth area, but Chief Halstead admitted that is still in the planning stages and won’t be built for at least another 2 to 3 years.
Meanwhile, Halstead said he is relying on more community involvement from citizen’s patrols and home owners associations to help keep crime down in Fort Worth’s fastest growing area.
The proposed budget also calls for requested funding for three new police academy classes which would start next year. The new academy classes could bring in another 90 to 120 police officers.
For residents like Trowbridge, new officers and faster response times can’t some soon enough.
“That’s a real long time, that could be the difference between life and death,” he said.
Chief Halstead will present the latest crime numbers to city council at Tuesday’s council meeting.
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