Project Nola: Lack of manpower means NOPD dispatch response time slow

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 8:57 AM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS - After a violent crime, every second counts. However, in some parts of New Orleans, even after shootings, it is still taking police more than 10 minutes to respond.

Eyewitness News spoke to a local crime watch group that said the problem boils down to manpower.

There just isn't enough of it.

"It was a rough day in the 7th District," said Project Nola director, Bryan Lagarde.

Two murders followed by an armed robbery the evening of April 20 was a busy one for New Orleans Police Department officers in New Orleans East.

"We had a murder that took place in the 6000 block of Chef Highway and we had all lanes blocked off to process that very intense scene," NOPD 7th District Commander Michael Harrison said. "It took quite a few officers to do that and the Granville call came out about 30 minutes later."

"The dispatcher reached out for five minutes trying to find a unit available to respond. There were none," Lagarde said of the Granville double shooting.

While dispatch calls went out about someone being shot in the chest on Granville, the NOPD said it took 12 minutes for an officer to arrive because all other units were tied up. Harrison said that officer was able to make two arrests in that murder case.

"I just know if there is a scene or something happened, we want enough cops always patrolling, always (giving) us a sense of security in this neighborhood," said Mark Nguyen, who lives around the corner from where a home invasion turned violent on Granville.

"Every call is important. We respond to every single call," said Harrison, who added that crime is down in his district despite limited resources.

"We're seeing decreases in both violent and property crime which is a great sign that we're able to do more with less," Harrison said.

According to a Project Nola log, nine minutes after the Granville double shooting, dispatch was alerting NOPD 7th District rank to a total of four Code 2's (or urgent calls) in the backlog stack with no units available.

"We simply do not have enough police officers to handle the number of calls our city is putting out," Lagarde said.

Project Nola said in the past it was normal to see burglary and traffic accident calls backlogged. Now more serious crimes sit idle.

Lagarde said it's not only a public safety concern for citizens, but for officers who in some cases are forced to respond to calls alone.

"We're talking shootings, stabbings, homicide, rapes, possible kidnappings, things of that nature," Lagarde said. "People calling 911 and their house is being broken into and they're in it. There aren't units available to respond."

Project Nola said it also recently spotted "no unit available" responses to dispatch calls for a stabbing and a gun incident at a school in the city.

The NOPD said it currently has a total of 1,263 officers. Superintendent Ronal Serpas has gone on the record saying the ideal number of officers would be 1,575.

The NOPD is slated to graduate two recruit classes later in 2013.

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