Revisiting the influence of police response time: Examining the effects of response time on arrest and how it varies by call type


Purpose: This study returns to one of the first operational aspects of policing ever studied – response time. After years of technological and analytical advancements, we examine the effect of response time on arrest and consider whether the influence of response time varies across precincts and crime types to inform operational strategies. Methods: We use multilevel modeling to examine the effect of response time on arrest in 1,266,299 incidents nested within 810 police officers. Results: We find that response time significantly predicts arrest. However, the effect size is weak relative to other variables. Moreover, the direction of the relationship contradicts expectations. We found that every additional minute it takes for an officer to arrive at a scene corresponds to a 2% increase in the odds of arrest. Further, precinct assignment and call type significantly interact with response time, affecting the probability of arrest, though the strength and directions of these relationships vary. Conclusions: The results can inform operational policies at a time when the police are facing substantial resource challenges. If response times have a more pronounced influence on arrests for robbery, for example, dispatch priorities should emphasize faster responses to those calls to maximize the utility of response time for facilitating arrests.

Journal of Criminal Justice, 84
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Jessie Huff
Jessie Huff
Assistant Professor

My research interests include program evaluation, police strategy, and crime mapping.