San Francisco is grappling with an alarming surge in criminal activity, and the city’s leadership seems either unwilling or unable to confront the pressing issues of open drug use, rampant homelessness, unchecked shoplifting, retail theft, and a rising tide of car break-ins. This spiraling crisis has reached a breaking point as the 911 emergency system struggles to keep pace with the growing demands of a city in turmoil.
According to a report by the Office of Emergency Management, San Francisco’s 911 system is under immense strain, with approximately 25% of emergency calls taking more than 15 seconds to be answered and directed to the appropriate resources. This alarming statistic paints a grim picture of a city in dire need of swift and effective emergency response.
The significance of rapid 911 response cannot be overstated. When San Franciscans dial 911, they rightfully expect immediate assistance during their most critical moments of need. The standard for 911 call response time, adopted in 2019, aimed for 95% of all calls to be answered within 15 seconds. However, the reality falls far short of this benchmark. In October, only 72% of calls met this threshold, marking a concerning decline from 77% in both September and August. Shockingly, San Francisco has not achieved the 95% goal since June of 2020.
Valerie Tucker, a seasoned dispatcher, shared her firsthand experience with the San Francisco Chronicle, painting a bleak picture of the city’s struggle to cope with the escalating crime wave. Tucker lamented, “It’s dire straits for sure around here, and it’s not getting any better. Most of us in the room are starting to wonder, is this worth it?” Her words underscore the urgent need for action.
Tucker also highlighted the critical role of swift response times in saving lives and providing aid to San Franciscans in distress. “In 15 seconds, I can start CPR instructions, get NARCAN administered, give choking instructions to a new mom or dad. I can prevent a suicidal person from harming themselves because I say their name, and they no longer feel so alone,” Tucker explained.
Burt Wilson, another experienced dispatcher and head of the dispatcher’s union, shed light on the disconnect between the dispatchers and the city’s leaders. He stated, “Police officers are more visual. Before I got this job, I never thought of calling 911 or what a 911 dispatcher was.” Wilson expressed his concerns that city officials may only address the issue when a catastrophe occurs due to the slow response times. “They know it’s a problem. But until somebody important gets killed or hurt, they’re not going to address it,” he warned.
San Francisco is making efforts to alleviate the crisis by hiring more dispatchers and improving hiring processes, but the question remains whether these measures will be enough to reverse the downward trajectory of response times or if they are merely a symptom of the city’s ongoing decline.
As the city grapples with an escalating crime problem, it is imperative that San Francisco’s leaders step up to address the 911 system’s inadequacies and provide the community with the emergency response they deserve. Failure to do so may have dire consequences, further eroding the city’s once-storied reputation for safety and prosperity.
In these challenging times, San Francisco’s residents are looking for solutions and leadership, not excuses. The clock is ticking, and the city’s future hangs in the balance.