Oakland police’s non-emergency phone line wait times surge, data show

Oakland police dispatchers are taking longer to answer 911 calls and officers are showing up later, the San Francisco Standard reported last month. But that is just part of the story.

Calls to Oakland’s non-emergency phone line also are getting picked up slower, according to summary data I obtained through a public records request. Waits rose about 21 percent to 237 seconds in 2022, or nearly four minutes, compared to 196 seconds in 2019, or about three minutes and forty-five seconds. The number of calls surged 38 percent over that same period to more than 703,000 in 2022.

The non-emergency line (510-777-3333) is meant to report incidents that are not life-threatening; suspicious activity; or a variety of other matters. Anecdotally, it’s been used to report ongoing smash-and-grabs in which offenders bash windows to steal items from cars, the sound of gunshots–nee–fireworks, and stray dogs.

City leaders in each of the past couple of years have cut a few million dollars from the police budget, which runs roughly $350 million annually, and the department has struggled to keep positions filled. But the exact reason for the slower answers is unclear. The department has been given a chance to respond.

By 2022, police needed over two minutes to answer nearly one out of every four non-emergency calls, up from less than one in five the year before. Those waits are just the start sometimes. Some callers who get through are then put on hold for minutes at a time.

The extended wait to have calls answered was particularly pronounced, on average, during the second half of day in 2022. Callers almost always waited longer on average in the afternoons and evenings in 2022 than they did during the same times in the previous three years. Waits reached nearly five minutes at 12:45 pm and 4:45 pm, the data show.

Over 600 callers in 2022 waited an hour or more to reach the police representative, the data show.

The full dataset is available through these Google Sheets. The data includes columns whose meaning couldn’t be learned, such as queue seconds and ring seconds. A public records aide for the police department did not respond to queries seeking explanation of the columns.

Oakland non-emergency PowerBI tally

Oakland non-emergency by month (Jan 2019 through Dec 2022)

Oakland non-emergency annuals (2019 through 2022)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.