Minutes and seconds count when you're fighting crime.
A Dallas security guard was left unnerved Friday because he waited more than two hours for police to respond after he nabbed two armed crooks burglarizing a van at Artisan Ridge Apartments on Preakness Lane in Southwest Dallas.
“I’m steadily calling Dallas saying, ‘Hey, can I get an officer out here. I got two at gunpoint,'” says the guard, who asked that he not be named to protect his safety.
Ultimately, the security guard had to let the suspects go because of the length of time it took for police to respond. He took the bullets out of their guns and returned the weapons to them.
“I’m very troubled,” said Assistant Chief Paul Stokes, who oversees the department’s patrol division. “It wasn’t a good situation to have that security guard out there. He’s out there helping us. He’s protecting that complex.”
It’s just the latest example of the response time crisis facing the city of Dallas. Response times have soared as hundreds of officers have quit, fleeing because of a faltering pension system, low pay and poor morale. That’s routinely leaving people waiting a long time for help.
Last week, WFAA told the story of an M Streets homeowner who waited almost an hour and half for police to arrive after a home invasion robbery. He was held at gunpoint and forced to lay face down in his bed.
Marlan Whyte, the guard’s supervisor and co-owner of Crime Investigative Unit, says his company provides security at complexes throughout Fort Worth, Dallas and other surrounding cities. It’s only in Dallas that his company encounters a problem with routinely delayed police responses.
He is well aware of the department’s manpower shortage.
"We take on a lot of bad properties so we need Dallas to respond to our calls, but they take a while to get there,” Whyte said.
He says this isn't the first time they've had to release a suspect.
Whyte’s guard says he was sitting in his car when he heard a loud noise. He looked up and saw two men breaking into a work van.
“The guy closest to me started reaching into his waistline,” the guard said. “At that point, I’m like he might have a weapon and might try to hurt me.”
The guard pulled his gun and warned them not to move. He found two guns on the burglars. He detained them and called 911.
“For an issue like that, you would think that there'd be like lights and sirens coming down the highway,” the guard said.
Instead, he was left waiting and waiting. The guard’s back up drove from west Fort Worth. He reached the complex before Dallas police officers.
At one point, the guard says a Dallas officer called him and was very apologetic about the late response.
“As I was telling him, I don’t blame him,” the guard said. “I get, ‘y’all have a lot of stuff on your plate, but due to the severity, it could have gone the wrong way.”
Records show 911 received the call about 4:09 a.m. No units were available to respond.
It wasn’t until 6:15 a.m. that an officer was dispatched. Police arrived about 6:30 a.m. after the security company had released the two suspected burglars.
Stokes, the assistant chief, says the 911 operator made a mistake in coding the guards as a lower priority three call.
Calls of that nature have a 30-minute response time goal. Dallas police are currently responding to those types of calls in about an hour.
The chief says the call should have been put in as a priority one call because the guard was detaining burglary suspects. Priority one calls have an eight-minute goal.
However, the chief says a patrol supervisor could have and should have upgraded the call. Stokes acknowledged the response time was unacceptable whether it was a priority one or a priority three call.
“There’s no excuse for it,” he said.
Stokes was also concerned when he learned that homicide had issued a bulletin on one of the detained burglars who was let go. A homicide detective wanted to question him as a witness.
Sources tell WFAA that the bulletin should have been removed from the system. But it raises question about what would have happened if homicide detectives had still wanted to talk to him and he was released.
Last week, the department allocated additional funds to pay officers to help answer calls on an overtime basis.
Whyte, the guard’s supervisor, says situations like what happened Friday sends a bad message to the criminals.
“They will come back and do the same thing,” he said.
The suspects said nothing as they left in the car they’d came in. WFAA is not naming the suspects at this time because they have not been arrested.
“We just told them to drive and don't look back,” the guard says.
Time was not on the side of the good guys this time. Maybe, next time.
Editor’s note: We are starting a recurring series looking at recent response times problems in the City of Dallas. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have had to wait an excessive amount of time for police to respond this year.