Memphis Police response times are getting longer, officials say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When you call 9-1-1, you expect the police to show up relatively quickly.

On Tuesday, the Memphis Police Department says as of last month, December of 2022, the department’s average response time eclipsed 20 minutes.

This time last year, it was about 19 minutes. By December, the average time reached more than 23 minutes.

And in the last two years alone, Mike Spencer, an administrator for emergency communications, said so have the emergency calls.

“The call for service has increased the number of calls for service that we’re responding to. Last year we did 760,000. When we look back at 2021, we were at 699,000. So we are seeing an increase in calls for service,” he said, in a presentation.

Spencer laid out the numbers, month by month, since 2019.

City councilman JB Smiley said he had one reaction, “Slow. But more importantly than how slow they are or slow as it relates to responding, they need to address some serious concerns. Concerns with the number of police officers they have and the number of calls.”

Spencer showed that in some precincts, like Mt. Moriah, Austin Peay, that response time gets even longer.

The Austin Peay precinct covers Raleigh and Frayser, and the response time is almost 29 minutes.

Mt. Moriah precinct, which covers parts of southeast and east Memphis, has the second worst response time with 27 minutes.

“It’s discouraging when you’re in those precincts and you call the police and you want them to call immediately and that’s not the case,” said Smiley.

One of the reasons is the need for more officers across the department, but Spencer also said there’s another.

“They’re larger geographic areas. So the challenge is, you know, trying to get from one end of the precinct to the other. And like I said, we try to keep officers in their assigned areas of response. But if we don’t have an officer available, we’re going to pull them from somewhere else in the station.”

Not every precinct had an average response time over 20 minutes.

The two lowest, North Main and Airways, had 15 and 16 minute response times.

“Well, not only is it essential, but the officers absolutely want to get there to assist the citizens, whatever the call may be, especially if it’s what they call a hard call, a crime in progress, the violent crime. They absolutely want to get there to look to save lives.”

Cobb said people should consider taking CPR classes and looking for their own safety measures to try to deter crime.

“People are relying on cameras now. Our cameras, whether they be doorbell cameras of sky cop cams, are not really preventing crimes. They will actually help find out who did it after the fact, but it’s not really prevented. So one of the things that I’m very keen on is something audible. If you have a dog or a dog absolutely going to make noise, it’s going to bring attention to what’s going on,” he said.

When asked about solutions, the department did not have an immediate answer, but Memphis city councilmembers encouraged regular updates.