ONLY ON 3: Channel 3 investigates police response times - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ONLY ON 3: Channel 3 investigates police response times

Posted: Updated:
2014 Chattanooga Police Dept. response times for high priority cases, compared to Nashville. WRCB graphic 2014 Chattanooga Police Dept. response times for high priority cases, compared to Nashville. WRCB graphic
2014 Chattanooga Police Dept. responses times for low priority cases, compared to Nashville. WRCBtv.com graphic. 2014 Chattanooga Police Dept. responses times for low priority cases, compared to Nashville. WRCBtv.com graphic.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

When you call Chattanooga police for help, you expect them to get there as fast as they can. But a Channel 3 investigation reveals that doesn't always happen.

If you call 911 to report a life or death situation in Chattanooga, an officer will be there in a matter of minutes. But that rapid response may come at a price.

For the victims of crimes like break-ins or theft, the wait can be much longer.

READ MORE | How you can help police reach you faster

Willie Hubbard is a generous man, always giving snacks to the neighborhood kids.

“They call me Mr. McMan. Where they got it from, I don't know,” Hubbard jokes.

Last month, that generosity took a hit when some of those same kids broke into his house.

“I didn't even know that they had been inside because the police and I were trying to figure out how they got in through that window,” he added.

The thieves got away with two tablets and two cell phones.

Hubbard called police and an officer arrived minutes later.

“Less than five minutes. Somewhere around three minutes, I'll say three minutes,” he said.

A Channel 3 investigation uncovered it's not always that fast.

The Chattanooga Police Department, which keeps its own police response data, categorizes emergency calls by priority. Priority 1 is the most serious and Priority 4, the least.

So far this year, someone has dialed 911 more than 52,000 times.

For 2015, it's taking an officer, on average, three minutes and 22 seconds to answer the highest Priority 1 call.

That's better than 2014, when the same call took twice as long.

Chattanooga Police Department's Assistant Chief of Neighborhood Policing Eric Tucker credits the improvement to cutting out some of the paper work.

If a call is canceled or doesn't require a follow up, the responding officer no longer has to write a report.

“That of course allows free time for the officer to go back and get in service,” Tucker added.

But Channel 3 discovered the faster response on Priority 1 calls may come at a price.

If someone breaks in and is already gone, it can take more than 18 minutes for police to arrive-- nearly double the time from last year.

“Those are your lower priority calls so that may be the reason why. They may have been put on hold longer than Priority 1 and 2,” Tucker said.

Tucker expects those numbers to get better too. The department recently added three more crime analysts. They use data to put officers where crimes are likely to be committed.

“[They] do specific analysis, work with investigations, patrol and special operations. To just look at things as a whole and to see the things that we do and are we doing them most efficiently,” Tucker added.

The Justice Department reports response times across the country between four minutes and an hour. Bigger cities can mean a longer wait.

In 2014, it took Nashville's Metro Police an average of 10 minutes to respond to their highest priority calls compared to nearly eight minutes in Chattanooga last year.

Those break-ins and other lower priority calls show a 42 minute difference between the departments.

It's important to note each department uses its own formula to calculate response times.

For Willie Hubbard, what happens after police arrive is just as important as how long it takes them to get there.

The thieves who broke into his home were caught on camera.

“I mean, anyone could tell you there's a camera back there. So when I looked at the camera, I saw their picture on there,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard chose not to press charges, he just wanted his things back.

If it ever happens again, Hubbard knows police will be there quickly.

The kids who broke into Hubbard's home were neighbors. Their parents paid for the stolen items in exchange for no charges.

Channel 3 hit the streets with police to find out what factors can make response times longer. We also learned there are things you can do to help first responders reach you as soon as possible.

Powered by Frankly