It’s shaping up to be a very busy year for Ottawa police.
According to its 2010 first-quarter performance report, police responded to 87,711 calls for service during the first three months of this year.
That’s a five per cent increase over the same period in 2009, and more than 1,200 more calls than the first quarter of 2007, which was the Ottawa Police Service’s busiest year on record.
“We don’t know (why) for sure, but it’s not a bad thing,” said River Ward Councillor and Ottawa Police Service board member Maria McRae.
“When you see a spike in calls for service, that actually means the police mantra of ‘make the right call’ … is working. We’d rather have more calls, and actually less incidents of people not calling.”
Ottawa police have handled an average of 366,000 calls per year over the past five years.
In the first three months of this year, police responded to 800 more Priority 1 calls for service than last year. The number of emergency calls requiring immediate, on-scene police presence rose five per cent to 16,225 citywide.
However, the response times to those calls have dipped to the lowest point in years.
Ottawa police have set a target of responding to 90 per cent of Priority 1 calls within 15 minutes. Although it has not achieved that goal since 2007, the first-quarter performance is usually closest.
In 2010, 88.5 per cent of Priority 1 calls were answered within 15 minutes. That’s 0.4 per cent lower than 2009, 0.2 per cent lower than 2008 and 1.5 per cent lower than 2007.
In the report, police Chief Vern White wrote that the organization’s inability to reach a 90 per cent response target may indicate “that the police service has reached an operational maximum under the current schedule, call response protocol, staffing levels, and call volumes.”
McRae said she expects the new south end police centre on Prince of Wales Drive, included in the 2010 budget, will improve response times.
with files from steve collins