Seattle police have been taking heat for their long response times, not hitting their target for responding to 911 calls within seven minutes – 90 percent of the time. Last month, it took officers six hours to respond to one particular theft, even when they were practically handed the stolen car and the suspects.
It started when a young man called 911 on March 20 around 12:30 p.m. His new Corvette was stolen right out of a secure garage at Bellevue Towers North, a luxury condo building.
Within minutes, the victim was able to use the OnStar app on his smartphone to track his car to Seattle. When a Bellevue police detective arrived just before 1 p.m., he was able to do what was a pretty routine investigation: search the parking garage, review surveillance tape, and use the same OnStar GPS tracking system to pinpoint the Corvette’s location to the Pacific Place Shopping Center garage in downtown Seattle.
By 3 p.m., the car was entered into the database as stolen. At 3:11 p.m., Pacific Place security was alerted and started looking around the garage.
At 3:18 p.m., security called 911 dispatchers back, who coordinate with Bellevue police, to say they had found the car and that they would stay with it until officers arrived.
In turn, Bellevue police turned over the felony auto theft case to Seattle since the car was now in their jurisdiction and it would be up to local law enforcement to respond.
But, five hours later at 7:15 p.m., no officers had responded. Not even when the car theft suspects came back looking for the car. The security company called back 911 dispatchers to try and speed things up – after all, the suspects had returned. And dispatchers, in turn, called Seattle police to remind them there was a stolen car, suspects nearby, and a security guard waiting on them. The conversation can be heard on 911 recordings.
“The security officer has been standing by for five hours and chased off suspects that were trying to gain access to the car,” said the Bellevue dispatcher to their Seattle counterpart. “They were just hoping that you … we could just remind you guys because he’s been out there for five hours and he can’t leave until you guys get there.”
The Seattle dispatcher said she had the call in, and would let officers know security was on the scene, but couldn’t say when units would respond.
After a third call from Bellevue police to Seattle dispatchers, a Seattle officer was dispatched to the scene at 8:30 p.m. That officer arrived on the scene around 9 p.m. According to case reports, it took another hour and a half to confirm the car was stolen and to process the scene.
Seattle police didn’t explain why there was a nearly six-hour response in the stolen car case, but did provide KIRO Radio a statement:
“We are conducting a major overhaul of our 911 Response Center. Our department is investing in better technology, hiring additional staff, providing better training and upgrading our facilities to improve efficiency and communication in our 911 Center. We continue to conduct ongoing reviews of 911 responses, policies and procedures to ensure we are working to achieve our service goals,” wrote Detective Patrick Michaud.
As for Bellevue police, spokesman Seth Tyler said he couldn’t speak to another agency’s investigation, only that the call would have gone up from they call a “non-emergency priority four call” to a “priority two response” once the suspects returned to the scene – that’s the second highest priority for them. For Bellevue, that would be the same priority as a burglary in progress because of the danger of a violent confrontation.