SEATTLE -- Standing in her salon, taking a break between clients, Amy Quackenbush remembered the day that put her on edge.
“Everybody has something traumatic that happens in their life, but in that moment, that day, August 13th, that was our trauma,” she said.
Quackenbush said every bottle of luxury shampoo, cutting shears valued at more than $1,000 each and iPads were stolen. A busted Realtor key box lay outside the front door of Adele Salon in Fremont.
“Yeah, I mean pretty much everything,” Quackenbush said recalling what was taken that summer 2017 day.
It’s been nearly 15 months and Quackenbush has become a detective herself, trying to hunt down what was stolen. She says it took Seattle police nearly eight hours to respond to her 911 calls and there was never a follow up to the theft that she estimates at around $20,000.
While Seattle police say it takes, at most, seven minutes to respond to 911 calls reporting violence, threat or major crime in progress, it’s the other emergency calls that have left people frustrated.
“There’s got to be a way to deal with, you know, the smaller things that are happening in this city, there’s got to be an answer,” Quackenbush told KOMO News.
Last month, the department launched an online dashboard so people can view officers’ response times. Standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling screen inside police headquarters, Mark Bridge, who is the department’s data driven program lead, explained how the dashboard works. He said viewers can look at officers’ responses to the most urgent calls as well as to calls where there’s no threat of danger.
“I think it gives a view, especially when we say cases of outliers or instances where people wait an extraordinary amount of time,” Bridge said.
While Bridge calls response times like Quackenbush’s “out of the norm,” KOMO has found stories like hers in all corners of the city.
Chris Wade was driving his Uber in South Seattle last month when he was rear-ended. He said he dialed 911 and waited six hours at the accident scene.
“I was a little shocked when we crossed the hour mark, the two-hour mark, the three. Now, I’m just in disbelief," Wade said. "It’s just frustrating, I guess would be the best way to put it."
Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said an officer was on his way to take a report from Wade, but that officer’s motorcycle was hit. That officer failed to have another officer dispatched, police said.
“There are cases where someone waits an extraordinary amount of time for police service,” Whitcomb said. “Everyone would agree we would be able to do more, and perhaps do a better job, if we had more resources.”
Population growth has skyrocketed in King County, adding 36,000 people between July 2015 and 2016. But growth inside the Seattle Police Department hasn’t been so quick. The department said they have added 111 new officers since 2014 - but this year alone more than 30 have left.
Whitcomb advises people who have waited more than an hour to check in with 911.
Faster 911 Service In Other Cities
In cities of similar size, response times to 911 calls is faster.
In Denver, police said that, on average, 911 calls are answered in just under six minutes. For non-emergency calls the average response time is 30 minutes.
In San Francisco, police respond to their “Priority A” calls in 5 1/2 minutes. The department said it would be completely out of the norm to take six hours or more to respond to any 911 call.
Jennifer Brosius said she waited 10 hours for Seattle police to respond to her 911 call back in June.
“It was infuriating. It was scary and terribly frustrating,” Brosius said.
Brosius and her husband had come home from work to find their house had been burglarized, her bedroom ransacked. They weren’t sure if the thieves were still inside.
“It was ‘are you sure no one is still in the house?’ We weren’t completely sure,” she said.
The 911 dispatcher told her not to touch anything and to wait outside. The daughter of a police officer, Brosius was quick to listen – she plopped down on her porch and waited the full 10 hours.
Brosius said she called back every hour, then she and her husband took turns calling back every half hour. She said dispatchers told them:
“We have you down already there are a lot of things going on tonight,” she said. “The officers who did response were wonderful, Very communicative, very caring, very concerned. They told us there’s just not enough of them to deal with what’s going on.”
Neither Brosius or Quackenbush blame the officers – who Seattle police say are dispatched once priority one calls are handled.
Quackenbush said, “more of my frustration is not just the time it took them to get here, but why is this the norm now? Why is this OK?”