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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When you need one, seconds count.
“911…What’s your emergency?”
It’s the greeting you get when you’re afraid, sense danger, and call for police.
Like Robin Whitt did.
“I was in a really violent relationship, and I needed help at that moment,” Whitt, a resident of far north Fort Worth, told CBS 11’s I-Team, describing her call to Fort Worth police.
But what if officers are late …or don’t show up at all.
“I didn’t even get a follow-up call. I never saw a cop come down this way to see if I was okay …knowing I was alone with my kids,” Whitt told us.
She is not alone in her frustrations of waiting for police when they are needed.
The I-Team, in a months-long investigation, has found that many police departments in north Texas are taking longer to reach extreme emergencies, such as a robbery in progress, when lives may be at risk.
Chris Henry, another resident of far north Fort Worth, said he waited too long for police when he saw a neighbor’s house broken into.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Why am I calling police?’ …you call them, yet they don’t show up when you need them.
But the I-Team has learned that delays in service are not necessarily the fault of the police. Instead, they are caused by North Texas’ unprecedented growth in population; road construction that is slowing everyone down; and, in some case, the police say they are hit with budget and personnel cuts.
Records obtained by the I-Team show that in fast-growing Frisco, the average response time has increased from about 5 minutes five years ago, to more than 6 minutes today.
In McKinney, it takes 6 minutes, 24 seconds – more than 30 seconds longer than in 2011 – for police to arrive at your doorsteps.
In North Richland Hills, the average police response time for priority one calls was 6 minutes, 9 seconds, more than a minute longer than in 2011.
And in Dallas, it takes an average of 7 minutes, 38 seconds for police to reach you in an extreme emergency – more than a minute longer than five years ago.
And the I-Team has learned the city of Dallas has actually cut the number of patrol officer on the streets by 11.
Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association, told the I-Team that is a mistake.
“It’s potentially dangerous,” Pinkston said, adding: “I think it’s jeopardizing the safety of the citizens by cutting back on the amount of officers that you have.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings disagrees, saying that, statistically, crime is down in the city, and that it could not afford to hire more officers after giving police a raise.
“Well, because we paid our police officers more…and to offset those good salaries they deserve, we’re not able to hire as many in the replacement …and that’s okay for me,” Rawlings told us, “because I think they’re doing a better job.”
On the far north side of Fort Worth, one of the fastest growing areas in the city, the I-Team has learned that it took an average of 10 minutes, 29 seconds in 2014 for a police officer to reach the scene of an emergency.
That’s a minute and a half longer than the citywide average which, in itself, is one of the slowest in North Texas, according to records obtained by the I-Team.
That worries Fort Worth City Council Member Danny Scarth, whose district includes parts of Fort Worth’s north side.
“I’m very concerned about the police response times in far north Fort Worth,” Scarth told us.
He said a new police and fire training center, scheduled to open soon, will help turn out more patrol officers for the city. In addition, Scarth said, city officials are working on building a new police substation on the north side, though it will not open any sooner than 2016.
“We’re doing things long term that need to be done to fix the problem,” Scarth said.
Meanwhile, residents in far north Fort Worth, like Megan Ely, continue to wait…
The day before the I-Team talked to her, she’d called police after seeing a suspicious vehicle repeatedly circle her street.
“We just thought it was a little alarming,” Ely told us.
Asked if she was still watching for an officer to come by, she said: “Yes, 24 hours later, still waiting.”
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)