VENICE, Calif. – Twenty-six minutes is a long time to wait when you’re on hold with 911.
That’s how long Martha Rider says she listened to an automatic recording when she called for help in Venice on June 8. She had been in her backyard when she heard a crash and rushed out to see a hit and run accident at the corner of Penmar and Rose Avenues.
One driver took off, leaving the pregnant victim to call police. More neighbors rushed out of their homes and also dialed 9-1-1, only to hear the same message. Finally, it was the victim’s cell phone that got through.
“Somebody could have been killing someone or shooting someone and for 26 minutes, nobody answer the 9-1-1 call,” Rider said.
Officer Robert Harris, a director for the Police Protective League, says the Los Angeles Police Department doesn’t have enough officers to quickly respond to emergency calls.
“The bottom line is, we don’t always meet those 9-1-1 emergency response time thresholds, which is seven minutes and that’s because we’re asked to do so many different things,” Harris said.
The LAPD is the third largest police department in the country with about 10,000 officers, fewer officers than the New York City Police Department (about 38,000) the Chicago Police Department (about 12,000). Harris says LAPD officers are busy responding to social problems that aren’t necessarily crime like the homeless crisis, drug addiction, and mental health.
A motion before the City Council would create a new, unarmed crisis response department that could take away some responsibilities from sworn officers, but Harris says funding those teams should not take away from the LAPD.
“We’re open and ready to have conversations like that,” Harris said.
He says cutting the police department’s funding will ultimately lead to fewer officers on the street and longer response times to 9-1-1.
Back in Venice, Rider sees the impact of the homeless crisis every day. There’s a growing encampment near her house. She says there’s little officers can do about open drug use, bulky items, and occasional violence.
“There is no law, no order here in this community at all,” Rider said.
After 45 years in Venice, Rider says it’s clear to her something has to change.