Tuesday 31 January 2023

Police take almost 30 minutes to respond to a call

It takes 27 minutes for police to respond to an emergency call in La Sabana and more than an hour in Santa Cruz de Guanacaste. Comptroller draws attention to the Ministry of Security the risks to citizens due to slow reaction.

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QCOSTARICA – The response of the police to a call from La Sabana or some other nearby town in the Mata Redonda district lasts 27 minutes and 57 seconds. If the emergency call is issued from Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, the response takes more than an hour.

The report of the Comptroller’s Office calls on the Ministry of Security leaders to take actions so that the Fuerza Publica (National Police) correct the times and help save the lives and property of citizens. Photo: Luis Navarro.

In the heart of the capital, residents of Mata Redonda (the area on the west side of downtown San Jose, that includes the La Sabana park) are exposed to waiting almost half an hour in the event of an emergency that puts their life at risk, according to a study by the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) that reviewed the emergency calls for 29 months.

The aforementioned times are from when the Police receive the call to when they reach the site of the incident.

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Given this, the general director of the Fuerza Publica (National Police), Daniel Calderón, affirmed that it is difficult for him to believe that this response time in the surroundings of La Sabana is real. That is that slow.

“It would be necessary to a review in detail. We are doing it to respond to the Comptroller’s Office. We want to know where that time (27 minutes) comes from, in what period specifically and a review area by area,” he explained.

“I don’t dare to question the data, but it seems to me that they have to be reviewed because the police resource assigned to that area (Mata Redonda) is sufficient,” he said.

The report cites other examples.

In Pococí the waiting time for police to arrive at the scene is 53 minutes; almost 39 minutes in Palmares and 72 minutes in Colorado

In the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM): 28 minutes in Mora (Cuidad Colón), 25 in Alajuelita, almost 26 in Santa Ana, and around 30 in Aserrí. The fastest is the El Carmen delegation, which takes 18 minutes.

Police effectiveness is not only measured by response times. National director of the Fuerza Publica. Daniel Calderón

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The Comptroller’s Office analyzed only the calls where the physical integrity of people was in danger or their property and determined that only in the review and analysis phase of each incident, that is verifying the call and dispatching personnel takes an average of 3 minutes and 55 seconds.

That is pretty lame compared to the 1.7 minutes of the New York Police, or the 45 seconds that our Bomberos (Fire Department) takes to make an analysis of the call.

Corrective actions

As a result of the findings, the CGR issued a report urging the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica (Ministry of Public Security) authorities to correct this situation, since, in countries like Mexico, the response time of the National Public Security System is nine minutes in the event of similar emergencies, and seven minutes n New York, USA.

National director of the Fuerza Publica, Daniel Calderón, who says that police effectiveness is not only measured by response times. Photo: José Cordero.

On average, according to the CGR, the response from the Ministry of Security to alerts lasts 38.25 minutes. The foregoing is based on 872,832 top priority incidents attended n the country between January 1, 2018, and May 31, 2020.

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This calculation took into account that response times may vary due to factors such as geographic area, population size, number of incidents, location of the delegations (police stations), assigned resources, and traffic density.

The Comptroller’s study starts from the moment the alert reaches the police, that is two minutes and forty seconds it takes, on average, for the 9-1-1 emergency system to receive and pass the information to the emergency responders.

Of the total alerts, 225,466 were for domestic violence (26%), that is, physical, patrimonial or psychological aggression between family members, regardless of sex.

For the 98 delegations analyzed, the Comptroller’s Office defined five groups with similar population density and with similar indices of social and criminal development.

According to the CGR, the response time found, in addition to being risky, is inconsistent with the responsibilities of the Ministry to provide immediate and efficient attention to incidents transferred by the 9-1-1 Emergency Service.

“It does not conform to the principles of efficiency, effectiveness and equal treatment for the recipients of the public service,” the study reads.

No skills

Among other weaknesses, the Comptroller’s Office detailed that 64 of the 181 Public Security officials in charge of receiving the alert, do not have the required preparation, including certified on the Communications Agent course, defined by the same Ministry.

This situation increases the risk of incidents worsening, especially since 473 cases of the total analyzed corresponded to the activation of the panic button of the National Institute for Women, through which it warns of a risk for women victims of violence.

The study cites a resolution of the Constitutional Court that warns about the obligation to attend in the most expeditious, fast, and correct manner, to avoid undue delays in situations that require immediate action.

The Comptroller’s Office asks Security Minister Michael Soto to promote and evaluate the continuous improvement in the provision of the service of attention to emergency incidents for citizen security and provides that, before May 26, 2021, it must inform them about the timely and effective response to the citizenship.

In addition to the long response times, the Comptroller’s Office found that 16 prosecutor’s offices ( fiscalías) in the country had weaknesses in the chain of custody, handling, delivery, and storing of items collected by the Police, which could be used as evidence in judicial proceedings.

This included deficiencies in the packaging, unlabeled items, insufficient or inconsistent description of an item, and damage to parts during transfers.

It was also determined that many police reports produced by officers lack up to seven relevant characteristics that should be considered at the time of the writing.

In a sample of 149 reports from the Public Force in 66 delegations of the 12 Regional Directorates, it was determined that 48 had shortcomings.

The foregoing may limit the margin of action of justice when trying people in criminal trials.


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