Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- A report released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Crime Commission found the New Orleans Police Department is arresting fewer felons, and it's connected to the shortage of officers.

The police must also respond to other emergencies including accidents. At one recent accident it took hours before someone in uniform arrived and it illustrates the short-staffed nature of the NOPD.

On May 29, a hit-and-run accident happened at the busy intersection of North Carrollton and City Park Avenue.

Jai Laiden's fiancee was driving a KIA Sol when a Chevy Malibu struck the KIA. Laiden said the driver and passenger of the Malibu took off running. His fiancee called him immediately then 911.

According to the NOPD, the original call came in at 2:37 p.m. A public information officer for the NOPD said a plain-clothed detective responded to the scene at 2:47 p.m., checked the safety of the driver and then left the scene.

Laiden said he remembers the police going after the individuals from the Malibu who fled from the car.

'Then they took off after the two folks from the other vehicle that ran off and we didn't see anyone since then,' said Laiden.

Laiden said roughly an hour past. The fire department responded to throw sand on some of the liquids leaking from the cars that were in the intersection. Paramedics eventually arrived too.

'It took about an hour for her to get checked out. I'm still in shock,' Laiden said last week.

As traffic started swelling around the accident, Mack Mackey decided he should stop. Mackey is a member of the Louisiana Patriot Guard Riders. He parked his motorcycle and did his best to control the flow of traffic.

'It was the right thing to do. I didn't see anyone else that was able or available to do it at the time,' said the soft-spoken Mackey.

According to the NOPD, a uniformed officer arrived at the scene at 4:47 p.m., two hours after the initial call to 911. The officer inspected the cars. She started to take down information for the report. Jai Laiden said his fiancee appeared to be free of serious injury. The suspects who fled from the other vehicle were never found.

Both Laiden and Mackey said the accident is microcosm of the larger issue of manpower at the NOPD.

'We need more of the boys in blue out here. We need more of a budget to allow them to be able to be out here to be a service to the citizens,' said Mackey.

'I'm sure they're just understaffed and short of help. I know they try best they can. It wasn't a fatality and probably doesn't take priority,' said Jai Laiden.

The NOPD does have to prioritize. Its staffing level is at its lowest in 36 years. In a city dealing with murders, shootings and robberies, something has to give.

As concerning as those crimes are, most people are more likely to be affected by an accident. If they are, then they may have to be prepared to wait.

'People are feeling the real police manpower crisis when they pick the phone and they dial 911 and they have waited a half hour or an hour for a response,' said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

The NOPD issued a statement saying in part:

'The NOPD, like every other police department in the country, must prioritize calls. Emergencies where someone is hurt or in danger takes top priority. We sincerely apologize for inconveniences caused.'

The department pointed out that its officers answered more than 500,000 calls for service last year, with a staff of roughly 1,100 people.

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