Peoria woman calls 911, waits 27 minutes for police; chief says they're working on it

Peoria police say they have difficulty getting to the northernmost part of the city quickly.

The 911 call came in around 3:51 a.m. from a woman in Peoria. Lisa Thornburg heard what she thought was someone pounding on her back door.

“I grabbed the phone immediately and called 911,” said Thornburg.

Alone in the house, Thornburg feared someone was trying to break in. She hid inside the closet while on the phone with a 911 dispatch operator.

“I’m really freaking out,” said Thornburg.

Police were immediately dispatched to the home. Thornburg waited for what seemed like a long time.

“I finally said ‘Where are they? Are they almost here? What’s going on?’” said Thornburg.

The dispatcher listed Thornberg's call as priority 2. Priority 1 calls average around five minutes in response time in most parts of Peoria. Thornburg lives in the northernmost part of the city and the average response time in her neighborhood for priority 1 calls is close to 12 minutes.

“The expectation is when you call 911 police need to come right away,” said Thornburg.

On that night, Thornberg waited 27 minutes before officers showed up at her door.

“I’m not happy at all,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff that could have happened in 27 minutes.”

Peoria police acknowledge the 27-minute response time and say mistakes were made.

“A decision was made to deviate from our protocol,” said Peoria Police Deputy Director Jay Davies.

A Peoria police sergeant pulled the only officer working in that area to assist on a mental health call in another part of the city. Davies says the lone officer working that northernmost community should have stayed in the area and that other officers should have been pulled instead.

The bigger issue, according to many who live in the area, is that response times are not getter much better.  A 12 News investigation back in April showed the average response time for a priority 1 call in the northernmost precinct to be around 14 minutes. We talked with the chief about that back in April.

“We need to do better. We need to do better,” said Chief Roy Minter.

12 News obtained priority 1 response times during the next six months (April – September) and discovered response times only dropped by two minutes.

“We recognize seconds count,” Davies said. “It’s an issue we continue to look at.”

The department is in the process of hiring a few new officers and shifting some resources into the area to lower those response times. Davies says the target for most police departments for priority 1 calls is around 4 or 5 minutes. He adds the large land area does present some challenges.

That northern sector only had 14 priority 1 calls during the past six months, making up a very small portion of the department’s priority 1 calls.

Lisa Thornburg has decided she can no longer count on officers to arrive in a timely fashion.

“I need to take measures so no one gets into my home,” said Thornburg.

The family has installed a high-tech security system equipped with multiple cameras.

This past week, Thornburg also purchased a gun and started to take shooting lessons. She hopes there won’t be a next time but feels she can protect herself if it takes officers too long to arrive.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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